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Timesizing News, May 2009
[Commentary] ©2004-09 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080
5/31/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Collier community development agency cutting back to 4-day work week, By I.M. STACKEL, Naples Daily News via naplesnews.com - Naples,FL,USA.
NAPLES — A Collier County division that runs on impact fees is feeling enough pain in this economy to shut its public doors on Fridays.
Citing serious cutbacks, Joe Schmitt, the administrator of the Community Development and Environmental Services Division, said that he is implementing a 4-day/32-hour work week for some employees working out of the agency’s North Horseshoe Drive building.
“In summation, building, zoning, engineering, environmental, cashiering, impact fees and other support activities will all be closed,” he said. “Impact fees are exactly what they sound like: fees that are collected on construction to offset the impacts of growth, by providing upgraded services for road improvement, school growth, and expansion of utilities.
The decision will impact approximately 111 of the 188 remaining employees, Schmitt said.
Defining department function by county fund number, Schmitt said the only operations that will continue on a 40-hour work week will be those functions that get money from the unincorporated county general fund, and those subsidized by private utilities and regulatory operations.
Schmitt has been steadily, and painfully, cutting his departments for the past two years.
Through attrition, early retirements and reduction-in-force, the division has cut some 112 positions. In the past two months, Schmitt instituted mandatory furloughs. Closure of the lobby at the Horseshoe Drive complex will help prevent future furloughs, Schmitt said.
An accurate budget figure wasn’t immediately available, but Collier Building Industry Association chief Bill Wendle said Schmitt has told him that the county used to collect about $30 million in impact fees but they’re now looking at the collection of some $3 million.
So, who really suffers as a result of this cutback in hours?
While county officials say there’s little impact to benefits, some staffers are going to take a financial hit on overtime, vacation time and pension plans.
County spokesman John Torre said that hourly employees would be paid straight time up to 40 hours if there is any need for them to work beyond 32 hours. That means no overtime.
That also affects vacation time.
“We accrue vacation based on a formula that takes into account the number of years someone has worked for the county and the number of hours you work,” Torre said. “If your hours are cut, then you would accrue vacation time at a slower rate than you would if you work 40 hours a week.”
Pension plans face a shaky future.
“If you work less than full time, you receive credit for part of a year,” Torre said.
Human Resources Director Amy Lyberg elaborated.
“Employees will continue to get credit towards total service for their pension in any month in which they work. It is the amount of compensation reported that will be affected by this change,” Lyberg explained.
Schmitt intends to present this plan to the Development Services Advisory Committee at 3 p.m. Wednesday, with the hopes of instituting the change in hours for the week starting June 8. That means that the first Friday lobby doors would be closed would be June 12.
The reason there will be exceptions to the rule is because some review functions fall under the management of the Collier County Fire Code Official and the East Naples Fire District.
Furthermore, homeowners and the building industry with active building permits will still be able to schedule construction inspections.
They’ll have to be assigned a time-specified appointment at a cost of $120 per inspection, and $50 for a minimum call of two hours’ service.
Community Development and Environmental Services Division provides a vast range of services for the community, including building permits, inspections, investigations, development plans, and land use petitions for properties located within the county’s unincorporated neighborhoods. There are numerous departments contributing to Schmitt’s division including administration, business management and budget, engineering and environmental services, comprehensive planning, zoning and land development reviews, building review, permitting and code enforcement.
Schmitt’s operation also provides guidance for the long-term land use issues to provide quality growth, which is a knotty issue this year.
On July 1, Florida’s approach to impact fees change, due to legislation passed and signed into law last week by Gov. Charlie Crist.
According to county officials — and those from the Florida Association of Counties — House Bill 227 yanked control from the state’s 67 counties, more than 400 cities and thousands of taxing districts.
While taxing entities can impose new impact fees, the burden of proving they are fair has now shifted to those taxing authorities.
A court challenge can cost counties serious time and money, according to the Florida Association of Counties.
While the building industry applauded this move, as have other community leaders focused on economic development, county officials are livid that Southwest Florida’s legislative team didn’t take their protests to heart, and facilitated movement of the bill. Tuesday, Collier Commission Chairwoman Donna Fiala called for letters of protest to Crist over several new laws, and some legislation that hasn’t been signed into law. All of them erode home rule, said Commissioner Fred Coyle.
- What's wrong with a 30-hour work week? By Don Fitz, 5/30 Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal via links.org.au - Sydney,NSW,Australia.
With millions of jobs lost during the first part of 2009, who is calling for a shorter work week to spread the work around? Not the Republicans. Not even the Democrats. But why is there nary a peep from unions?
In the US, the vehicle industry sets the pace for organised labour. The only discussion at the top levels of the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) is how quickly the gains won during the last 50 years can be given back. Does the UAW have no memory of the 1930s and 1940s when a shorter work week was at centre of organising demands?
The gross domestic product is plummeting at the same time that jobs are disappearing. Why should there be any connection between the two? If society produces 10% less, why don’t we all just work 10% less? Didn’t things work like that for hundreds of thousands of years of human existence? When people figured out easier ways to get what they needed, they spent less time doing it.
It’s called “leisure”. Leisure is essential for a democratic society involving people in all aspects of self-government. Instead of working frenetically to produce “stuff” that we don’t have the time to enjoy, wouldn’t we be better off with less “stuff” and more time of our own? Research repeatedly shows that, once important needs are met, additional belongings bring no additional happiness. Yet work is strongly related to stress.
A labour-environment connection?
It’s more than stress to the human nervous system. Manufacturing too much stuff stresses every aspect of the environment. The voracious appetite of corporate growth destroys homes of the wolf and bear in North America. Swiftly disappearing are the last refuges of chimpanzees in Africa and orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra. Mangrove forests give way to beach resorts as long-line fishing kills 100 sea animals for every fish eaten by a human.
Vastly more creatures fall prey to the 80,000–100,000 chemicals spewed into the air, water and land. Countless molecules of chlorine and fluorine go into pesticides and plastics that destroy immune and reproductive systems. Elemental structures of lead, mercury and, of course, radioactive particles are an enemy to living systems.
The most frequent building block of toxins is oil. With more than 40 hours of labour contained in each gallon, oil is the closest thing to free energy that humanity has ever discovered. A substance that should be used sparingly so that many future generations could use if for medical and other essential products, oil is being squandered at an exponential rate by a corporate culture determined that its descendants will despise it.
The only way that corporate America knows to shield itself from loathing by its progeny is working overtime to prevent those generations from existing. As climate change changes from “if/when” to “How rapidly is it increasing?” corporations befuddle our senses with a dazzling array of green gadgets, each of which pumps more CO2 into the atmosphere during its manufacture and distribution.
Nevertheless, corporate media propagandises non-stop that we must be unhappy from the economic downturn and pray for a quick return to the normal rate of planetary extermination. So it’s time to ask why another set of voices is not demanding a shorter work week. Why do the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Federation and a host of other Washington lobby groups fail to point out that an economic slowdown with a fair distribution of jobs would be the treatment of choice for a sick environment?
Centuries of struggle for the working day
Some of the most insightful writing on hours of labour is in Karl Marx’s Capital. While most of it reflects the analytical style of 19th century economic writing, Chapter X on “The Working-Day” reveals Marx’s passionate outrage at what long hours do to workers’ health. The problem started as infant capitalism found the hours of labour under feudalism to be insufficient to satisfy its urges for expansion.
In response to a shortage of labour due to the plague, England’s 1349 Statute of Labourers sought to ensure that the working day was sufficiently long. An Elizabethan statute of 1562 lengthened the working day by reducing the time for meals. Emphasising that it took capitalism centuries to lengthen the working day to 12 hours, Marx noted that one of the milestones was the elimination of church holidays by protestantism.
By the 19th century, some had work weeks of 15 hours per day for six days per week plus 8–10 hours on Sunday. At the same time that many were organising to reduce their hours to 12 per day, the Chartist movement made the 10 hour day “their political, election cry”.[6, 7]
The high point of US labour organising during the 19th century was on May 1, 1886, when 300,000 workers went on strike for the eight-hour day. The brutal repression that came down in Chicago with the Haymarket arrests and executions sparked the international celebration of May Day.
In his classic description of the fervor for an eight hour day that began in 1884 and increased in pitch through 1886, Jeremy Brecher made observations that are still relevant.
First, the leadership of the dominant labour organisation of the day, the Knights of Labour, attempted to put brakes on the eight-hour-day movement. It was often the grassroots that pushed forward, dragging the leaders behind them in city after city.
Second, the 1886 strike wave, far more than previous labour actions, “became above all strikes for power”. The 1886 demands were for control over work hours, hiring and firing, and the organisation of work.
Third, and most important, the struggle for the eight-hour day did not wait until the 10-hour day had been won. Unbelievably long hours were still common. Successful strikes meant that, in many industries, workers “of all kinds have reduced their hours of labor from 15 to 12 and 10”. Workers who only a few years earlier had 12–15 hours per day jobs were now demanding the eight-hour day. Marx similarly wrote that the Chartist movement for the 10-hour day was popular amongst those with a work week of up to 100 hours.
Does anyone work for less than 40 hours?
While interviewing Spanish longshoremen [wharf labourers] in 1989, I spent hours talking to Juan Madrid in Barcelona. Every summer he and his wife had the problem of making sure that they had the same month for vacation. “Do American workers really get off less than a month?”, he asked me incredulously.
“Two weeks is the most common; some only get one week; and, many get no paid vacation at all”, I let him know. Factoring in longer vacations, he had an average work week considerably shorter than the typical US worker. This is the rule, and not the exception, in Europe.
Reducing the work week below 40 hours has preoccupied many labour organisations. In the 1930s, the American Federation of Labour lobbied for a six-hour day. In 1990 BMWs plant in Regensburg adopted a 36 hour week. German Volkswagen employees accepted a 10% pay cut to achieve a 28.8 hour work week. The Digital corporation had 530 employees who opted for a 4-day week with a 7% pay cut so that 90 jobs could be saved.
Victories for shorter work weeks may only be temporary. Tim Kaminski told me that he loved the extra free time he gained from winning a seven-hour day (with no loss in pay) at the St. Louis Chrysler mini-van plant in 1992. But the contract stipulated that it would last only until another plant reopened, which happened two years later.
It is not unknown for politicians to champion the cause of fewer hours. Before joining the Supreme Court, as a US Senator Hugo Black introduced legislation for a 30-hour work week in 1933. More recently, the French Senate looked into a 33-hour week.
One of the least-known flirtations with the 30-hour work week was by the cereal giant, W.K. Kellogg Company. In 1930, the company announced that most of its 1500 employees would go from an eight-hour to a six-hour work day, which would provide 300 new jobs in Battle Creek. Though the shorter work week involved a pay cut, the overwhelming majority of workers preferred having increased leisure time to spend with their families and community.
New managers who began running Kellogg had no enthusiasm for the shorter work day. They polled workers in 1946 and found that 77% of men and 87% of women would choose a 30-hour week even if it meant lower wages. Disappointed, management began examining which work groups liked money more than leisure and began offering the 40-hour week on a department-by-department basis.
How long did it take them to get rid of the 30-hour week? Almost 40 years! The desire to have more time to themselves was so strong that it was not until 1985 that Kellogg was able to eliminate the 30-hour work week in the last department.
The experience at Kellogg indicates that it is absolutely false to say that all workers all of the time crave more stuff and will sacrifice anything to get it. Karl Marx made a similar observation when writing about “The Working-Day”. Quoting results of a poll of those who had laboured excruciating hours at a Lancashire factory, “They would much prefer working 10 hours for less wages…” 
Why would any progressive criticise a 30-hour work week?
Despite all of this, there is something problematic with advocating a 30-hour work week at the beginning of the 21st century: a 30-hour work week is not short enough! There is mushrooming unemployment amidst mountains of useless products. An hour of labour now produces more goods than has ever been the case in the history of humanity. Combining these means that there is no reason for anyone to work more than 20 hours per week.
Every year, clever folks figure out how to churn out more stuff with fewer hours of labour. Jeffrey Kaplan observed that “By 1991, the amount for goods and services produced for each hour of labour was double what it had been in 1948”. This was a doubling of labour productivity in only 43 years. Jon Bekken calculates a more rapid rate: “Automation and other innovations result in our productivity (output per work hour) doubling every 25 years or so”.
In other words, the amount that people produce during an hour of labour doubles every 33 years [give or take 10 years]. We have the ability to produce twice as much during the work day or cut the work day in half and produce the same amount.
Arthur Dahlberg, a consultant to both the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations, wrote that capitalism was already capable of satisfying basic human needs with a four-hour work day. He maintained that such a drastic cut in working hours “was necessary to prevent society from becoming disastrously materialistic”.
The issue was revisited in 1991 by Harvard economist Juliet Schor, who concluded that it would be possible to have a four-hour work day with no decline in the standard of living. Similarly, J.W. Smith argued that “over 50% of our industrial capacity has nothing to do with producing for consumer needs”. Years before issues of climate change and peak oil grabbed the public, Smith forecast:
We’re facing an ecological nightmare as we push to the brink the earth’s ability to support us. We could eliminate much industrial pollution and conserve our precious, dwindling resources by eliminating the 50% of industry that is producing nothing useful for society.
In a more recent analysis, Smith sifts through the US economy sector by sector to conclude that “we could all work 2.3 days per week with no drop in our living standard”.
It’s a rare economist who is capable of realising that there is no reason to constantly scramble for the possession of more objects that fall apart more rapidly. British philosopher Bertrand Russell also thought that four hours of work per day should be plenty to supply the necessities of life.
Russell was thinking similarly to Benjamin Franklin, who wrote more than 200 years ago:
…if every Man and Woman would work for four Hours each Day on something useful, that Labour would produce sufficient to procure all the Necessities and Comforts of Life, Want and Misery would be banished out of the World, and the rest of the 24 hours might be Leisure and Pleasure.
Labour has become vastly more productive since Ben Franklin contemplated the work day. However, total output grows even faster than labour productivity. By including population growth and people seeking to live the lifestyle of the English-speaking rich, Ted Trainer ciphers that “by 2070 given 3% economic growth, total world economic output every year would then be 60 times as great as it is now.
This would be a 6000% increase in stuff in 63 years — not exactly healthy for forests, oceans, wildlife and humans. If we want our children to be able to live on this planet, the single most important environmental legislation may be restricting people from working more than 20 hours per week.
What’s stopping a shorter work week?
One factor which is not standing in the way of fewer work hours is “human nature”. Marshall Sahlins estimated that hunter and gatherer societies probably spent 15–20 hours per week obtaining the necessities to survive. Each of us can look inside of ourselves to see the real obstacles to cutting the work week in half: fear that we will lose medical care, pensions, and related survival necessities.
Virtually every working family in the United States is one medical catastrophe away from bankruptcy. Countless people would gleefully shift to a 20-hour work week if it would not cause them to lose their health insurance.
Pensions pose a similar roadblock. As they approach retirement, millions of Americans become acutely aware that pensions are based on factors like the average salary of the last three years. Working part time would cut pension payments during uncertain years.
It is not a well kept secret that employers often give workers less than 40 hours to deny them benefits. A similar effect occurs from forced overtime. Even though there may be a higher rate of pay for overtime, a company may save money if it does not pay for the health care and pensions that putting more people on the payroll would require.
Every environmentalist who wants to stop coal companies from blowing the top off of sacred mountains should be on those mountains screaming that private health insurance and pension plans must be replaced by single payer health care and a social security system with at least a four-fold expansion of payments. In case the environmental significance is not clear…
1. Halting the cancerous growth of useless fall-apart junk production requires a drastic shortening of the work week; and,
2. Cutting the work week can only happen if people are not terrified that fewer hours means they will lose health insurance and pension plans.
These are called “social wages”. Social wages also include mass public transportation, clean water, breathable air, uncontaminated land and something which is becoming increasingly rare: the right to quality free public education which is coordinated by representatives directly elected by citizens. These social wages are as important environmentally as medical care and pensions.
The right to a home with electricity and heat is part of the same pattern. People who are not fearful of being thrown out of their home or losing their utilities have much less incentive to work long hours.
There remains an enormous problem that permeates every other barrier to shortening the working day. As long as production is based on the maximisation of profit, each corporation is pushed to extend working hours as long as possible for fear the competition will do it first. As Marx described with clarity:
The prolongation of the working-day, beyond the limits of the natural day, into the night, … quenches only in a slight degree the vampire thirst for the living blood of labour. To appropriate labour during all 24 hours of the day is, therefore, the inherent tendency of capitalist production.
In the 21st century, we should update this to say that capital feeds with two fangs: one to suck the blood of labour and the other fang to drain life from Mother Earth. Can the 20-hour work week become a wooden stake held by the environmental movement as it is pounded by labour? Maybe; but not necessarily. A stake that is driven too shallow will allow the demon to awaken with renewed strength.
When US workers struck for the eight-hour work day in 1886, they were going beyond pay issues and demanding that labour have a role in controlling the process of production. Today, we need a progressive alliance to challenge not only how many hours we work, but the quality, durability and even the necessity of goods we produce. Drastically cutting the hours we work will help save the Earth’s ecology only if it is part of an overarching goal to improve the quality of our lives while reducing the grand mass of manufactured objects.
[Don Fitz has been surviving on less than 20 hours work per week since he was forced to retire in 2006. He is editor of Synthesis/Regeneration: A Magazine of Green Social Thought, which is published for members of the Greens/Green Party USA and can be reached at fitzdon [at] aol.com.]
1. Diener, E., & Seligman,M.E.P. (2004). ``Beyond money: Toward an economy of well-being’’. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 5, 1–31.
2. Holmes, T.H., & Rahe, R.H. (1967). ``The Social Readjustment Rating Scale’’. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 11, 213–218.
3. Heinberg, R. (2003). The party’s over: Oil, war and the fate of industrial societies. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 272.
4. Marx, K. (1974). Capital: A critical analysis of capitalist production, Volume 1. Moscow: Progress Publishers (first published in 1887), 264.
5. Capital, 252.
6. Capital, 267.
7. According to labour activist David Macaray, parallel efforts happened in the US, with an 1835 textile strike to shorten the work week to six days of 11 hours and a Boston carpenter strike for a 10-hour day. Personal communication. April 25, 2009.
8. Roediger, D. (1998). Haymarket incident. In M.J. Buhle, P. Buhle & D Georgakas (Eds.) Encyclopedia of the American left (296–297). New York: Oxford University Press.
9. Brecher, J. (1972). Strike! Boston: South End Press, 32.
10. Strike! 42.
11. Jon Bekken (2000, Arguments for a four-hour day. http://www.iww.org/en/node/758) also notes that New York City electricians won a 25-hour work week (with obligatory overtime) in 1962; in the 1980s German metal workers struck for a 35-hour week; and Danish “private sector” workers went on strike in 1998 for a six-hour day.
12. Bush, K. (1994).`` Work less and everyone works’’. In Context: A Journal of Humane Sustainable Culture, 37, 42. http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC37/Bush2.htm
13. Kaminski, T. Personal communication. May 16, 2009.
14. Kaplan, J. (2008). The gospel of consumption: And the better future we left behind. Orion Magazine., May/June. http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/2962
15. Bush, 42.
16. Kaplan’s description of the Kellogg experience is based on Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt’s (1996) Kellogg's Six-Hour Day. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
17. Capital, 270. This was in response to owners violating a 10 hour statute by forcing a 12- to 15-hour day with higher pay.
18. Kaplan, 4.
20. ``A.O. Dahlberg, 91, Economist and Inventor’’. New York Times (October 2, 1989), D12. http://www.nytimes.com/1989/10/02/obituaries/ao-dahlberg-91-economist-and-inventor.html
21. Kaplan, 3.
22. Schor, J.B. (1991). The overworked American: The unexpected decline of leisure. New York: Basic Books.
23. Smith, J.W. (1989). The world’s wasted wealth. Kalispell, MT: New Worlds Press, xv.
24. Smith (1989) Book jacket.
25. Smith, J.W. (1994). ``Wasted time, wasted wealth’’. In Context: A Journal of Humane Sustainable Culture, 37, 18. http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC37/Smith.htm
26. Russell, B. (1959). The prospects of industrial civilisation, 2nd edition. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 40.
27. Benjamin Franklin, Quoted in Campbell, J. (1999). Recovering Benjamin Franklin. Chicago: Open Court Publishing Company, 228.
28. Trainer, T. (2007). Renewable energy cannot sustain a consumer society. The Netherlands: Springer, 2.
29. Sahlins, M. (1974). Stone age economics. London: Tavistock Publications.
30. Capital, 245.
- UCC cutting staff hours and laying off, radiojamaica.com - Jamaica.
The worsening economic crisis is being blamed for the decision by a Kingston-based tertiary institution to cut staff.
The University College of the Caribbean (UCC) is to reduce its workforce come Monday.
The institution says the economic challenges have forced it to re-examine all its business processes with a view to cutting waste and reducing expenses.
The UCC says inadequate revenue was producing temporary setbacks for the organization and therefore it had to make the difficult decision to lay off workers and cut hours.
In a memo, UCC said most of its staff members will be temporarily changed from full time to part time workers.
Their 40 hour work week will be cut to 20 hours for a period not exceeding 3 months.
Effective June 8, administrative staff may also be required to work 20 to 25 hours per week including teaching hours for full time academic employees.
The reduction in work hours will also results in a cut in salaries.
In addition to cutting work hours, UCC will also lay off some workers if they are not reassigned to other departments.
The institution said it is making every effort to minimise lay-offs and is hoping to return all staff to full time status come September.
[So shorter hours are happening anyway, but not in the best way.]
5/30/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Milwaukee County - Walker calls for freezing all county salaries through 2010, By Steve Schultze of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via JSonline.com - Milwaukee,WI,USA.
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker on Friday added an employee wage freeze to his growing arsenal of tools aimed at avoiding large budget shortfalls.
But as with other ideas he's broached - most notably a 35-hour work week and accompanying pay cuts - the county executive ran into immediate resistance and accusations he's playing politics with people's lives.
[Well, the better alternative is presumably to restore World War II levels of high taxes on the rich - do we hear any proposals along those lines from any of you cowards? There are a lot of people who want to put others in positions where there's really only one lesser-of-two-evils or least-of-3plus-nonideals solution - and then complain about that solution.]
Walker said he's not bluffing about the need for the cutbacks or the likely alternative - layoffs. All county department heads have been asked to draft layoff plans in case the freeze and his other efforts are rebuffed, Walker said.
"Freezing salaries now is a much better alternative than having layoffs or big budget cuts," Walker said. Even if he gets the County Board and unions to agree to the freeze, he can't promise there won't be any job cuts, he said.
Walker said he will announce next week that the courthouse and other county buildings will be open seven rather than eight hours a day, as another money-saving move. Most county buildings will open a half hour later at 8:30 a.m. and close a half hour early at 4:30 p.m., Walker said.
The county is projected to face shortfalls of nearly $15 million this year and $90 million next year. Walker had no estimate of savings linked to a wage freeze. Nonetheless, every 1% increase in county wages costs about $2.5 million a year, according to county budget officials.
The county's last offer to its AFSCME-represented workers called for phased-in wage increases totaling 3.25% this year and 2.25% next year, said Richard Abelson, the head of the county's largest union.
Abelson criticized the freeze announcement as politically motivated and said Walker broke his promise not to bargain in public. All county labor contracts expired at the end of last year, and an agreement on a new pact has eluded both sides.
"If Walker really wanted to accomplish something positive, he'd sit down at the bargaining table and bargain," said Abelson, executive director of District Council 48 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
The Republican candidate for governor issued a memo late Thursday to county supervisors calling on them to support the wage freeze. He also urged members of the County Board's Personnel Committee to formally adopt a 2009-'10 wage freeze in negotiations.
County Board Chairman Lee Holloway said he wasn't rejecting the idea of a wage freeze but needs to know more about Walker's overall plan for dealing with the county's deficit.
"Right now, I have no idea what his master plan would be," Holloway said. "He wants me to operate in the dark. I don't think that's fair."
Holloway said he's working on some alternative money-saving ideas. Supervisor Johnny Thomas said he'd prefer to see more targeted budget cutting rather than a wage freeze.
The freeze shouldn't come as a surprise given the poor economy and other public employee labor deals that have included pay freezes, Walker said. Milwaukee Area Technical College employees recently agreed to forgo 3.5% wage increase this year, and the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee this week agreed to Gov. Jim Doyle's proposed pay freeze for all nonunion state employees.
Walker telegraphed his interest in a pay freeze in March, when he told the Journal Sentinel that the county's unions should consider a freeze as a way to avoid layoffs.
District Council 48 filed a grievance Thursday objecting to the five-hour weekly furloughs, which amount to a 12.5% pay cut for the second half of this year. The county executive has authority only to impose wage cuts for up to four weeks, the union argues. Walker said county lawyers advised him that he has authority to impose longer wage cuts in economic emergencies.
Walker has had no luck persuading other elected county officials - who control the employees in their offices - to go along with his plan for a 35-hour work week.
Chief Judge Jeffrey Kremers said the courts couldn't operate properly if employees took off five hours a week. He said he'll propose some alternative savings, such as an end to free meals for jurors in deliberations. Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. said he'd like to make some cuts to inmate services, such as going from three to two meals a day or limiting the amount of time inmates have for recreation.
- [UK -] Alan Johnson must act by August 1 or wards will close and people will die, warns top medic, By President John Black of the Royal College of Surgeons, Mail Online via DailyMail.co.uk - UK.
On August 1 all employees in Britain will be bound by the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) to work for no more than an average of 48 hours per week - and that includes everybody in the NHS.
Great, you might think. There will be no more tired, exploited junior doctors making mistakes. Everyone will be fresh as a daisy.
[Keep this in mind. This is the outlook that all anglo medicos need to get to, that most used to have, and that a few still do have. Despite all the squealing that follows, the problems that individual skillsets invent, such as these 'problems' among medicos, are complaints they need to GET OVER because of the pathological self-undermining work culture they have cultivated over the past half century. Here we go (get out your hankies!) -]
Unfortunately, unless the Government comes to its senses, the result will be catastrophic for the NHS, with patient safety on a knife-edge, surgeons not being properly trained, waiting lists going up again and even hospitals closing.
[Anglo medicos are such a precious arrogant lot - they've gradually turned themselves into the economy's biggest set of self-martyring workaholics who think their skills are sacrosanct and themselves nobly indispensable. The myth of indispensability is one of the biggest blockages to progress. It metastesizes like cancer in economies that have fostered job insecurity by failing to lower workweeks as they raise technology levels.]
How can this possibly be? Well, the legislation dreamed up in Brussels is mainly concerned with the health and safety of manual workers. It was designed to protect Spanish lorry drivers or labourers working heavy machinery.
Nowhere is the health and safety of patients mentioned. The politicians who signed up for this 20 years ago always assumed there would be an exemption for professional groups. Yet, astonishingly, there is no such opt-out for the medical service. It is no exaggeration to say operations will be cancelled, wards closed - and that, ultimately, people will die.
We have seen the warning signs already. Over the past ten years there has been a driving-down of the hours worked by junior doctors as, bit by bit, the working time directive has come into force.
["Warning signs"?! These are the signs that some physicians are trying to heal themselves, you moron!]
We have already reached the point where patients' health has been endangered.
[Cursed are those who call good 'evil' and evil 'good.']
Things will get worse in a month's time, when the legislation is finally enforced in full and we find there are just not enough doctors to staff the hospitals 24 hours a day.
Of course the Government maintains that no such problems exist. But we know they are with us already.
Even now the 'rotas' that hospitals organise are fiddled. While they exist on paper, in practice they are staffed by phantoms because too few medics are available.
In February, I was discussing the EWTD with Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary. Had either of us burst a blood vessel in the brain the hospital to which we would have been taken had six doctors for a rota of ten.
Managing surgical emergencies is difficult - believe me, I know. I did it throughout my career and found it as demanding after 30 years as I did at the beginning. Having one doctor where there should be three makes an already difficult job much more difficult. It is chaotic and frankly dangerous.
It is interesting that after a long debate the authorities in the United States decided that the optimum working week for junior doctors should be 80 hours, primarily on patient safety grounds!
In Europe, the Scandinavian countries manage with a 48-hour week, but they have three times as many doctors per head of population as we have, and a very different distribution of hospitals.
It is worth remembering that the inquiry into the scandalously low levels of care at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust found that inadequate staffing of surgical rotas was one of the main problems. The report highlighted that there was only one junior doctor looking after all the surgical wards at night.
No one in our hospitals will be more affected than surgeons who, by the nature of their job, need to be on call. The work is not constant. Relatively few emergency patients need an immediate operation but when they do, such as for the seriously injured, they need it at once if they are going to survive. This means hospitals need to be staffed throughout the 24 hours.
On top of this, the training of surgeons has gone out of the window. Junior surgeons learn by exposure and apprenticeship in operating theatres, outpatient clinics and on the wards. If they have only 48 hours and have to cover emergencies, much less time is available to learn the daytime job.
Surgery is a craft - time and experience are needed if it is to be done safely. The Royal Colleges are not going to certify surgeons as fit for a consultant post until they have that time and experience, but with 48 hours that is going to take a lot longer.
Does that matter? Yes, it does. If all the trainee surgeons in the country need more time in training after August 1 that means there will be fewer surgeons completing training, which means a shortage of surgeons. How will the NHS cope with that?
The ultimate irony of this incompetent, ill-thought-out directive is that the people whose lives it is meant to improve will be much worse off. If you are a trainee surgeon you will be apparently working shorter hours but when you are working you will be rushed off your feet, stressed out and often made to work a week of night shifts, which is the most tiring system of all.
Do not believe the Department of Health propaganda that under the EWTD doctors will be less tired. They will be more tired than when they worked apparently longer hours but had space to think, pause, rest and talk to colleagues.
Add in longer training, and most of all the deep dissatisfaction of having to work an unsafe system, and the result is a law that is meant to make your life better actually makes you more tired, ruins your training and ruins your job satisfaction. What an own goal!
So what can a hospital do if everybody they have has 'run out of hours'?
Consultants will fill in as much as they can because they will put patient safety first. However, they are limited to 48 hours, too, so if they deal with more emergencies they will have to cancel elective surgery.
Waiting lists will rise, and all the gains of the past few years may be lost.
If there aren't the consultants to fill the gap, there will be nobody. What will the hospital do then?
There is serious risk of units and hospitals having to close to emergencies, with resulting chaos, not to mention the danger and inconvenience brought about by patients going long distances to a hospital that has enough staff to stay open. This is truly a nightmare, and I despair that the Government will not take action.
In part we are victims of our own law-abiding nature in this country. The rest of Europe sensibly just ignores the directive. They cannot believe that in the UK we are stupid enough to apply a directive that was patently not designed for health services.
Part of the madness is this: as individuals we will be free to work longer hours if we choose.
[How free is this choice given the pressures?]
But by law, hospitals must organise the doctors' rotas in accordance with the regulations - so conscientious surgeons will find there are no extra hours for them to do.
If the European legislation is misguided, there is also a scandalous lack of political will on the part of this Government.
The Royal College of Surgeons has offered a solution to the Government, based on what has been done in Germany. There is a provision within European law for a group of workers to opt out voluntarily.
We asked our trainees to define the ideal working week to provide, first, a safe service, second, good training, and, last, the least tiring working pattern. They came up with up to 65 hours of work, including time spent on call. This would give patients peace of mind that hospitals are safely staffed to provide high-quality care.
Trainees would have time to get a good training, resulting in tomorrow's doctors being as good and experienced as today's.
We put this to Alan Johnson and he described it as 'mission impossible'. I still hope he will change his mind as the deadline approaches. The clock is ticking.
- [Germany - ] The Opel rescue plan: Who is being rescued? By Ulrich Rippert, 5/29 World Socialist Web Site via wsws.org - Oak Park,MI,USA.
In the extensive media coverage of the “rescue package” for General Motors’ German subsidiary, Opel, the most important question has been largely ignored. Who, in fact, is being rescued?
The German government, Opel management and the trade unions all seek to evade this question, implying that there exists an identity of interests between Opel workers and their bosses. They seek to give the impression that the Opel rescue is being undertaken in the interests of “all those involved.”
The details of the different rescue plans prove the opposite. Irrespective of whether Fiat or Magna gets control, the result will be a sharp reduction in jobs, wage cuts, cuts in break time and more shift work.
Each of the bids involves billions of euros in government assistance, which will be used to facilitate job cuts and the restructuring of production. Taxpayer money will be employed to increase the profits that go to the shareholders. This is what German Economics Minister Karl-Theodor von Guttenberg means when he speaks of a “viable company concept.”
The government is prepared to agree to state subsidies in large part because it faces national elections in September. It is hoped that this “transitional financing” will facilitate a smooth takeover of Opel until the next government comes to power.
The ruling coalition wants to avoid protests against job cuts at one or more of the Opel factories. Such protests could spark sympathy action by tens of thousands of workers whose jobs are threatened at German companies such as Karstadt, Schaeffler and Porsche. To this end, the government is working closely with the IG Metall union and the Opel works councils. Both the government and the unions know that the so-called “location guaranties” currently demanded from potential investors will be valid only for the few months leading up to the elections. After that, the situation will look very different.
All of the parties, including the unions, are already agreed that production capacity in the automobile industry must be reduced. When the government’s current policy of subsidising auto sales ends in the autumn, the car companies will confront a dramatic contraction of demand.
The anti-working class content of the Opel “rescue” is most evident at plants outside of Germany. In Antwerp, 2,500 GM workers produce the Opel Astra. In the English towns of Ellesmere and Luton, 5,000 Vauxhall workers produce the GM Vivaro model. In the Spanish city of Zaragoza, 7,000 GM employees produce the Corsa. The Polish plant in Gliwice produces the Astra and Zafira models. The 3,600 workers there have been on short-time for months, and an entire shift has been cut. A further 250 workers will be dismissed in the next few days.
In the current negotiations in the German chancellery, the demand for the retention of factories in Germany means shifting the burden of the crisis onto workers at other European locations. In particular, IG Metall and the works councils are calling for a “German solution.” Their recent joint days of action in Europe were merely a cover for their nationalist policy. Klaus Franz, who chairs both the Opel joint works councils and the GM European works council, speaks unceasingly of the advantages of maintaining the company’s German factories.
For their part, the governments and unions of other European countries with GM plants oppose the German plan on similar nationalist grounds. On Wednesday, Belgian Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy sent an open letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Union Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. In the letter, van Rompuy argued against a solution that favoured just one country, claiming it was not in accord with the spirit of the European Union. Flemish Minister-President Kris Peeters denounced an agreement dictated by Germany that the other countries with GM plants would be obliged to follow.
Under the headline, “Europe Fears German Egoism,” the German business newspaper Handelsblatt reported that the British government had protested that the German Opel “rescue” plan would be at the expense of Britain’s GM subsidiary, Vauxhall. British Secretary of State for Business Peter Mandelson stressed that Vauxhall had already implemented significant cost reductions over the past few years.
Just last February, the trade unions at Vauxhall agreed to cut the workweek from 38 to 30 hours, with a corresponding cut in pay.
[If unions can just get one of their traditional goals and it's higher pay, they wind up with neither cuz they're just pinning a higher pricetag on a surplus commodity, themselves, but it they can just get one goal and it's shorter hours, they wind up with both cuz they're cutting their own surplus and harnessing market forces to raise pay in response.]
A spokesperson for the Unite union declared that it was unacceptable that the increased competitiveness of the British factory was not being taken into account in the current negotiations.
The Handelsblatt article reported: “The criticism from EU member states leaves the federal government cold. According to German government circles, it is now too late to formally include other European partners.”
Economic nationalism is assuming ever more pronounced forms. In this respect, the British unions play an equally perfidious role as their German counterparts. Tony Woodley, the general secretary of Unite, attacked the British government for not taking a more vigorous stance against the German plans and called for a more aggressive defence of British interests.
In fact, the Opel “rescue” will have a devastating impact on workers at all locations. The works councils insist that there is no realistic alternative to concessions in the form of wage and job cuts. Whoever rejects this logic, the union bureaucrats argue, must be prepared to accept the immediate bankruptcy of the company, the closure of all plants and the destruction of all jobs.
In order to counter this blackmail, it is necessary to challenge the basic premises of the capitalist system. If it is not possible to defend jobs, wages and social benefits within the framework laid down by capitalism, then the economic system must be fundamentally changed.
The Opel “rescue” raises basic political questions and the necessity to prepare for a political struggle.
At the core of such a struggle must be the implementation of an international socialist programme, which elevates the defence of the rights and interests of all workers above the profit interests of major shareholders and the financial aristocracy. Private ownership of large companies and banks must be abolished. They must be placed under common ownership. Companies must be organised and controlled democratically on the basis of the interests of workers and the majority of the population.
To achieve these aims, it is necessary to build a socialist movement that seeks to unite workers all over the world. As part of this struggle, it must fight, in opposition to the European Union, for the establishment of a United Socialist States of Europe. That is the programme of the International Committee of the Fourth International and its German section, the Partei für Soziale Gleichheit (Socialist Equality Party).
Such a political reorganisation of society cannot be achieved overnight. It must, however, be fought for in the course of the fight for immediate measures to defend jobs and wages, including strike action, mass demonstrations and factory occupations. This fight can proceed only in opposition to the official unions and on the basis of a political and revolutionary perspective. Workers must reject the narrow standpoint of trade unionism, which is wedded to nationalism and an acceptance of capitalism.
Factory committees should be elected that draw on the historical tradition of workers’ councils. Such committees must function entirely independently of the unions in order to organise united action with workers at other plants and in other countries and develop international resistance to the offensive of the employers and the capitalist governments.
5/29/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- "Reviving the Economy" - Revisiting Mayor Richard Kaplan of Lauderhill, Nightly Business Report via NBR Transcripts via pbs.org - Miami,FL,USA.
JEFF YASTINE: It's not energy, but economic challenges which face Florida these days. It's one of four states that account for nearly half of the new foreclosures nationwide. Lauderhill is a small south Florida town where the housing has taken a hit. I visited it 18 months ago and introduced you to the mayor, Richard Kaplan, who was fighting to maintain his city. As we continue our series "Reviving the Economy," I went back to Lauderhill, caught up with Kaplan and asked him how it's weathering the real estate bust now.
MAYOR RICHARD KAPLAN, LAUDERHILL, FL: This is a relatively stable community. Many of the people who live in Lauderhill have lived 20, 30 years in this city.
YASTINE: Lauderhill's Mayor Richard Kaplan drives his convertible all over this town. Lauderhill is a community of 60,000 people. Roughly one-third are recent immigrants, many from the Caribbean. When we talked to Kaplan a year and a half ago, he was deeply worried about the impact of the foreclosure crisis.
KAPLAN: I don't think anyone has seen the worst yet.
YASTINE: And now?
KAPLAN: I think our city overall has come through quite well, because we've got some excellent personnel in our city that recognized what the problems were, addressed them, putting plans into place to try and stem off as much as possible to avoid the problems that a lot of other communities have.
YASTINE: There are about 300 foreclosed homes within the town limits. There are also many rental complexes here; as the housing crisis lengthened, some, like this one, became eyesores, although it will soon re-open. Spending on transportation and beautification efforts continues, investments, Kaplan says, to avoid a key problem, spiraling declines in quality of life seen elsewhere.
KAPLAN: From a personal point of view with households where they're having problems with jobs and stuff, yes, there's still a problem, There definitely still is a problem. But from a governmental point of view, we've provided what we can for the community to sustain itself as well as possible.
YASTINE: Kaplan says the city has been applying aggressively for Federal stimulus funds and stepping up efforts to stabilize former high-crime areas.
KAPLAN: I'm going to drive into an area. It's called the renaissance of Lauderhill. This is some of the biggest problem area or challenges we have in the city. Brand new housing, this was sold to people under a lottery system, newly constructed housing. In an area that nobody would ever want to come to except those that could not afford anything other than that.
YASTINE: The city's housing authority also bought some struggling older condos where crime was a problem.
KAPLAN: This is the Windermere area. This is going to become a gated community. This is where crime has dropped tremendously. We own a lot of the units in here that we rent out. We were finally able to secure ownership of it and we have totally rebuilt the center. The center is a very positive community. The police have some presence here. The rec center has some presence in here and -- hey how you doing? This is one of our officers. Maybe you might want to ask a question.
YASTINE: Officer Lerue Sarvis says the city's efforts, in the face of the real-estate crisis here, are now paying off.
OFFICER LERUE SARVIS, LAUDERHILL POLICE DEPARTMENT: I'll put it to you this way. I've been back here now for about seven months. After the first three months, crime decreased 39 percent. After the fourth month, it went down to 43-44 percent.
YASTINE: There's one last stop Kaplan wants to share on our tour of the city.
KAPLAN: We're going to have to walk out here and get our helmets.
YASTINE: The new city hall. The previous one was destroyed by a hurricane in 2005. Local tax dollars are funding the construction, not Federal stimulus money. After a short tour inside, I ask Kaplan if other cities can follow his example.
KAPLAN: You just can't look at what can we do today. You have to look at what we can do today and what we're going to need to do tomorrow and take those steps to tomorrow. You have to follow certain principles and don't violate those principles and if you do, then you start running into problems. You won't be able to do what you need to do. We (INAUDIBLE) very true to the principles that we've instilled in Lauderhill.
YASTINE: And with tax revenues shrinking, Lauderhill has cut its budget and city workers recently switched to a four-day work week.
- County officials looking at options to save budget, by Ed Gebert email@example.com, Van Wert Times Bulletin via TimesBulletin.com - Van Wert,OH,USA.
["Ed Gebert / From Vaaaan Wert!]
A day after Van Wert City Council discussed a big 2010 general fund deficit, Van Wert County Commissioners met with county department heads to try to find a way to continue operations through the end of 2009. County Auditor Nancy Dixon estimated that unless economic conditions improve, the county is looking at a shortfall this year of $300,000-$400,000.
"I think that's a very conservative number that you've given us," Commissioner Harold Merkle told Dixon.
"We're down in revenues 3.145 percent overall," she told the county officials Thursday afternoon. "But the four areas we are down, if they continue, that could be big money." Through the first four months of the year, permissive sales tax revenues are lagging $84,000 behind and interest income is coming in at approximately 50 percent less than 2008. Other revenues are also way behind as well.
With those figures ringing in their ears, county department heads discussed how to cut expenses, most notably payroll expenditures. Using suggestions from other city and county governments, the commissioners and department heads resumed talks about a volunteer furlough program for county employees. The idea had been explored earlier this year. Sheriff Stan Owens has already received provisional cooperation from non-correctional facilities personnel on the plan.
The furlough would involve county employees not working one day of each ten-day pay period. Health insurance and other benefits would be unaffected.
During the meeting, a twist on the idea was presented. Instead of a one-day furlough every two weeks, the suggestion was to close as many county offices as possible half-days every Friday. County leaders expressed the notion that this would provide consistency between departments and offer county employees a longer weekend in exchange for the sacrifice of a portion of their pay.
The commissioners stated that they will pass a resolution on Tuesday if county employees agree to the voluntary program, and all legal hurdles are crossed. The closings could begin as early as the week of June 8 and last through the remainder of the year.
But even a shortening of the work week will likely not be enough to balance the 2009 budget. The estimated savings over the last six months of the year totals around $153,000 - far short of the [needed] $300,000-$400,000.
"Where is the other two or three hundred dollars coming from?" asked Judge Rex Fortney.
[Wal, as Will Rogers said during the Great Depression, "I guess it's gonna come from the rich, cuz they's the only ones who's GOT any."]
That question is one that commissioners and department heads alike do not want to have to answer. The department budgets have already been cut to the bare bones, yet another ten percent reduction has been requested by the commissioners. The easier way out of this problem would be a turnaround in tax and other revenues, but even the most optimistic predictions do not include that kind of recovery in 2009.
"If we don't have enough, the hard decisions will come in other ways," summarized Commissioner Clair Dudgeon.
Merkle also clarified the commissioner's position on using the money still held in reserve from the sale of the Lincolnway Home. That fund still has $221,000 after using the money to pay for elevator repairs at the courthouse and the outlay for heating and air conditioning at the jail. However, the commissioners plan to continue to reserve that money for emergencies. "It was the opinion of the commissioners that this was the sale of an asset, and we just feel it shouldn't be used for current expenses," Merkle pointed out. "That's why we established the capital account, to use it for the precise purpose that we have been utilizing it for."
Objections were raised that county employees have not received raises in three years and that the Common Pleas Court computer system is more than ten years old and in need of replacement, but the commissioners' answer remained firm.
However, even if the 2009 shortfall in the general fund is eliminated, the problems will remain until the economy bounces back. Merkle warned the department heads at the end of Thursday's meeting, "We're definitely going to be looking at something more serious next year, so we're going to need cooperation throughout the year. We want to see something that everyone is happy with and we can stick together on the plan."
5/28/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Springdale Budget Memo Gives Details, By Doug Thompson, The Morning News via NWAonline.net - Springdale,AR,USA.
SPRINGDALE -- The mayor's budget proposals include reducing District Court to a four-day work week, leaving at least eight unfilled city positions vacant, laying off a planning department manager and cutting the hours of other employees.
"We're on the tail end of many of our capital improvements," Mayor Doug Sprouse said Thursday about eliminating the Planning and Community Development Department's capital improvement project manager. "It's logical that position be the one that would go."
Sprouse said the fee increases in the proposal amount to $768,997 but "half of that" would be a payment of $334,490 from the Springdale School District. That payment will reimburse the city for six resource officers assigned to district schools. That exact amount would be cut from the Police Department's budget. Total cuts to the city budget would amount to $1,169,764, according to the mayor's figures.
The rest of Sprouse's proposals would leave vacant an unfilled firefighter position, two city library staff positions and an Animal Services caretaker's slot. The full-time library positions would be replaced by two part-time positions, however. The recreation superintendent position at the Parks Department, which was held by the current Parks and Recreation Department director before his promotion, would also be cut. Th Police Department budget would lose an unfilled sergeant's position and an unfilled dispatch manager's position. The city's Shiloh Museum would lose the open position of weekend assistant.
City departments would cut hours. Animal Services would have to "adjust the hours of operation" under the proposal. The city attorney would reduce the work week by four hours each for two employees and two hours each for the remaining five members of the staff. Also, car expenses for attorneys in the office would be cut by $2,000 per attorney for an $8,000 reduction.
District Court in Springdale would go to a four-day work week. Salaries for most employees would go down by eight hours a week apiece.
Purchases of new books, magazines and other new material at the city library would be cut by $105,000.
The city's John Powell Center for seniors would be leased to the NWA Economic Development District instead of being operated by the city, saving the city about $44,000 a year.
At the Shiloh Museum, the work hours of the education assistant would be cut from 25 hours a week to 20. All full-time staff would see their hours cut by four hours per month and part-time staff would also have their hours reduced. The Shiloh Museum Board has agreed to increase its contribution to the museum's operating budget by $17,440, the proposal said.
The Christmas lights in Murphy Park would not go up for an unspecified number of years.
"During the recent ice storm, some of the trees in Murphy Park were totally destroyed and most of the others were severely damaged," the proposals state. "With the amount of damage done to the trees and our current budget situation, we think it would be prudent to forgo the annual installation of the Christmas lights in Murphy Park for the next few years."
- GateHouse plans temporary salary reductions in Massachusetts, By Jon Chesto, GateHouse News Service via MetroWestDailyNews.com - Framingham,MA,USA.
GateHouse Media New England plans to implement a temporary salary reduction next week as it reacts to an industrywide downturn in advertising sales.
The company, which publishes nearly 100 newspapers in the state, announced the salary reduction to employees on Thursday. The pay cut is aimed at saving $2.5 million this year.
The size of the pay reduction will vary depending on an employee’s salary, ranging from 7 percent up to just under 15 percent for the company’s top earners.
The average pay cut would be 7.75 percent. If the reduction lasts through the end of 2009, it would have the effect of an average pay cut of 4.5 percent for the full year.
Rick Daniels, CEO of GateHouse Media New England, said the broad pay cut was a necessary step to ensure the Needham-based publishing group, a division of GateHouse Media Inc. of Fairport, N.Y., will remain profitable in the face of steeper-than-expected advertising declines.
“We know what happens to newspapers who are no longer cash-flow positive, and we’re committed to not let that happen,” Daniels said. “We understand this is a sacrifice for our employees, and a serious one. But we think, in light of keeping this company stable and strong, that it’s one worth making.”
The wage reduction is one of several steps the company has taken to pare back expenses. GateHouse cut its New England work force by about 10.5 percent since the start of the year through a mix of layoffs, voluntary buyouts, attrition and work-week reductions.
After the latest round of job cuts, GateHouse Media New England will have the equivalent of more than 1,100 full-time employees.
The pay reductions will take effect next week, except for unionized employees. GateHouse will need to negotiate with unions who represent workers at The Patriot Ledger, The Enterprise of Brockton and The Herald News of Fall River to persuade them to agree to a pay cut.
Daniels said it’s too early to know when employees’ pay levels could be restored. He said that will be determined by a rebound in ad revenues or achieving other forms of savings, and that he hopes the cuts can be restored, either in whole or in part, by the beginning of 2010 or earlier.
Many other major newspaper companies across the country have already adopted pay cuts or furloughs during the past two years as they struggle in this advertising downturn. Locally, The New York Times Co. is seeking approvals from unions at The Boston Globe, which the Times Co. owns, to cut employees’ pay levels as the Globe tries to avoid a projected $85 million loss for 2009.
Declines in ad sales were particularly steep for the industry in the first quarter of this year, as many advertisers reined in spending because of the recession and chose less expensive or free online alternatives.
“The industry, in general, was reporting ad revenue declines of high 20 percent to low 30 percent (compared with the same time in 2008),” Daniels said. “While we were in the lower end of that range, we were certainly in that range.”
GateHouse publishes eight dailies and more than 90 weeklies in Massachusetts, making it the largest newspaper publisher in the state.
Jon Chesto may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5/27/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Health System responds to economic downturn, 5/26 Beaufort Observer Online Edition via beaufortobserver.net - Washington,NC,USA.
[The South Carolina 'Beaufort' is pronounced Byoofert. Maybe North Carolina pronounces it right = Boforr.]
Washington, NC – Beaufort Regional Health System is taking steps to reduce costs due to the effects of the economic downturn. The health system notified its employees on Tuesday that employee's hours will be cut by 5% to help reduce expenses. This essentially means that employees will go from a 40 hour workweek to a 38 hour workweek. According to Chief Executive Officer Bill Bedsole, although the hospital remains in a positive financial position, operating income for the year-to-date is running $1.6 million short of budgeted projections.
Beaufort is not alone in feeling the impact of the downturn. Hospitals across the country are seeing a decline in admissions and elective procedures and a significant increase in patients who are unable to pay their medical bills. "We're not unique", Bedsole noted, "I've heard statements from industry leaders that two-thirds of hospitals in the southeast are currently losing money from operations."
"We have been implementing cost-saving measures since the beginning of the year," says Bedsole. "Back in February we basically eliminated all of our overtime, froze merit increases and decreased the hospital's contribution to the employee retirement plan. Unfortunately, the impact from these interim cutbacks has not been enough to prevent these further actions."
"It is very important to us that we maintain our current workforce as well as quality and compassionate patient care." We are hoping to reduce our expenses while retaining our current employees."
The cutback in hours will begin June 1st. Employees will be given the option of reducing their work week or taking a reduction in pay with equivalent time off. The reduction in payroll expenses could save as much as $130,000 per month and almost $800,000 in six months. "The summer is typically a slower time of year for most hospitals," said Bedsole. "These changes will not create understaffing because departments match staffing levels with patient volume."
In addition to the cutback in hours, hospital administration is also implementing other cost-saving measures such as a freeze on travel, a freeze on employee tuition assistance as well as working with the management of each department to evaluate ways to become more efficient. "Our management team has done a great job over the past several months at finding ways to reduce expenses and improve efficiency," said Bedsole. "It is the goal of our board, administration and management team to do all that we can to reduce expenses to avoid layoffs which have plagued many hospitals of similar size across our state."
"We regret having to make this move given the economic environment," said Bedsole. "But we believe it is necessary to maintain a strong financial position as we look toward the future of meeting the healthcare needs of our community."
For further information please contact:
Director of Marketing, Public Relations and Development
Beaufort Regional Health System
Phone: (252) 975-4134
Cell: (252) 945-3806
- Economic Scene: Careers That Work for Families, By David Leonhardt, Source: New York Times, B1.
The big influx of highly educated workers into finance in the last two decades has been the subject of some national hand-wringing lately. President Obama, college presidents and economists have all worried aloud that Wall Street has hoarded human resources that might otherwise have gone to science, education, medicine or other fields.
Now, new research is suggesting that the shift also brought another cost — a cost that fell mainly on the people, especially women, who took jobs in finance. Among elite white-collar fields, finance appears to be uniquely difficult for anyone trying to combine work and family.
[This is going in the wrong direction (backwards in time to the seven 10-hour-day workweeks of the 1860s - see Roediger & Foner's great history of the American workweek, *Our Own Time), but at least it's got into the mainstream media.]
Finance, on this score, is worse than law and worse than academia. It is far worse than medicine, which emerges from the research as the highly paid profession with the most flexibility. Near finance at the bottom of the list is consulting, another field that became more popular in the last two decades.
The research, by Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz of Harvard, answers a question that college students, for all their careful career planning, rarely consider: which jobs offer the best chance at balancing work and family life? A decade or two after college, however, that question often comes to dominate conversations among friends and between spouses.
On almost every aspect of work-life balance, finance and consulting look pretty bad. People who take time off in those fields suffer large penalties, both in terms of money and career opportunities, once they return to full-time work. And part-time jobs are hard to come by, which often forces people to make a choice between working a 70-hour week and leaving a job entirely.
One set of statistics neatly summarizes the findings. After surveying Harvard College alumni 15 years after graduation, Ms. Goldin and Mr. Katz estimated the average financial penalty for someone who had taken a year and a half off and then returned to work. In medicine, that person earned 16 percent less than a similar doctor who had not taken time off. Among people with no graduate degree, the gap was 25 percent. For both lawyers and Ph.D.’s, it was about 29 percent.
For M.B.A.’s, a group dominated by finance workers and consultants, it was 41 percent. Given how much money many make, they can probably do just fine even after such a pay cut. Yet the size of it suggests that time off puts them on a completely different career track.
“The good news is that there are at least some professions where women have been able to carve out a set of policies that are compatible with family life,” Jane Waldfogel, a Columbia professor who studies families, told me. “The challenge for the next generation — and it isn’t just about women — is to extend this to other occupations.”
Ms. Goldin and Mr. Katz, who are two of the country’s leading labor economists and have published the crux of these findings in the American Economic Review, studied Harvard graduates from the last 40 years. That allowed them to compare a fairly similar group of students over a long period, but had the disadvantage of creating a decidedly atypical survey group.
So the two economists compared their results to two other surveys — the National Survey of College Graduates, run by the National Science Foundation, and a study of University of Chicago business school graduates — and found broadly consistent patterns.
According to the most recent National Survey, for instance, 21 percent of doctors in their late 30s and early 40s work less than 35 hours a week. The share was roughly 14 percent for M.B.A. graduates, as it was for lawyers and people with Ph.D.’s.
The idea that medicine offers more choices than other elite professions may come as a surprise, given that medical training requires notoriously long hours of study. But once doctors reach their 30s, many of them seem to be rewarded with a wider set of options than their counterparts in other fields.
When I heard about the new findings, I immediately thought of two friends of mine, a pediatrician and ophthalmologist married to each other and living in Colorado. Their years of training were typically grueling. While they were in medical school and residency in Northern California in the 1990s, they were surrounded by people at dot-coms who were working shorter hours and making vastly more money.
But today, they have the best work-life balance of any parents I know. She works two and a half days a week and is on call eight weekends a year. He arrives at his office early every morning and takes short lunches so that he can work four days a week. He is also on call 10 weeks a year. They have jobs they love, and they spend a lot of time with each other and their children.
As Al Franken, the comedian turned politician, has observed, “Kids don’t want quality time. They want quantity time — big, stinking, lazy, nonproductive quantity time.” And research on emotional and intellectual development suggests that kids are right to want what they do.
Obviously, certain medical specialties still don’t allow for much flexibility. But a significant number do. (The same seems to be true of public policy and a few other fields; among people with a master’s degree in something other than business, the average pay penalty for taking time off was 13 percent, slightly below what it was for doctors.)
A telling example of a flexible field, Ms. Goldin points out, is obstetrics. It seems to be the archetypal field that must operate on someone’s else clock — a baby’s. Yet as the ranks of female obstetricians have grown, they have figured out how to change that.
Group practices are now the norm, and the doctors take turns being on call. A family’s primary obstetrician isn’t guaranteed to be the one who delivers the baby. In many practices, every doctor will see a woman at least once during her pregnancy, so she knows everyone who may deliver her baby.
Wall Street, consulting firms and law firms have resisted this group approach to work. The partners claim the work is too complicated to be handed from one employee to another. In some cases, that’s no doubt true. Often, though, I bet it isn’t. “Why are women’s bodies less complicated than someone’s account?” Ms. Goldin wryly asks.
The general resistance to group work — and to flexibility — instead seems to stem from old habits, much as obstetricians once would have scoffed at the notion of a group practice. The downsides of allowing people to share work would probably be outweighed by the benefits of being able to hire talented people who want satisfying careers and aren’t willing to work 70-hour weeks.
For now, that group remains largely female. But there is some reason to hope that fathers will be increasingly drawn to such jobs as well. Over the last four decades, according to the economists Mark Aguiar and Erik Hurst, men have increased the average amount of time they spend taking care of children. (Harvard men, however, have not, the Goldin-Katz data show.)
The question of how to balance work and family is almost inevitably a thorny one. Easy answers, free of compromise and sacrifice, are rare, especially for people who don’t earn nearly as much money as doctors.
But if you’re a teenager or college student trying to decide what to do with your life, you at least may want to start thinking about the question. I promise: Most of you will spend a lot of time thinking about it later.
- German debt surge ups pressure on private borrowers, By Dave Graham, Reuters via guardian.co.uk - UK.
BERLIN - German government efforts to support the economy through record borrowing may aggravate a shortage of funding for the private sector which threatens to crimp investment, accelerate job losses and stifle a recovery.
German industry associations say banks' reluctance to lend is putting firms under increasing pressure to find alternative sources of funding -- at a time when governments are sucking up more and more of the money available on capital markets.
Yet the more companies have suffered in the downturn, the more the state has had to borrow to help them out.
"It's a vicious circle -- it's like a dog biting itself on the tail," said Volker Treier, chief economist of Germany's chamber of industry and commerce (DIHK).
Germany and other European states are selling record levels of debt to help shore up their economies, prompting the Bank for International Settlements to warn this spring that sovereign issuers alone face increasing competition for investors.
Treier said there was no definitive evidence yet that firms have been crowded out of capital markets by the government, which is battling an expected economic contraction of 6 percent in 2009. But there were signs it could be happening, he said.
For the first time, DIHK surveys of German industry showed that financing conditions for bigger firms -- those most likely to seek funds on capital markets -- were deteriorating more rapidly than those for smaller firms, Treier said.
Yet this in turn could have a knock-on effect for borrowers who cannot turn to capital markets for funding.
The European Central Bank has pumped billions of euros into markets to encourage bank lending, but it hasn't solved the problem, said Mario Ohoven, president of the BVMW association of small- and medium-sized businesses, known as the Mittelstand.
"The situation has got worse," Ohoven told Reuters. "We know from our members...that more than 40 percent of Mittelstand firms are reporting tougher access to credit."
According to the Bundesbank, the volume of loans issued by banks to non-banks fell during four of the past five months up to March, the most recent period for which data is available.
Part of the problem could be seen in the billions of euros worth of repair work done by the state guaranteeing bank loans, which drew capital away from nominally riskier sources of funding, said Johannes Rudolph, an analyst at HSBC Trinkaus.
"I don't think the state itself is squeezing out other borrowers directly," he said. "It's the loans guaranteed by the state -- they are crowding out other non-guaranteed loans."
Consolidation in the banking sector and the need for bigger capital cushions has also played its part in the process.
"It's not so much the price borrowers pay, it's the amount on offer. On the one hand, there are fewer banks, on the other, they must keep a closer watch on their capital," Rudolph said.
The cabinet on Wednesday backed a supplementary budget which raises the federal new borrowing target by nearly 11 billion euros ($15.4 billion) to a record 47.6 billion euros in 2009.
Coupled with extra funds raised through state-controlled bodies to support struggling banks and firms, new borrowing may exceed 80 billion euros. As a result, federal debt issuance, already set for nearly 350 billion in 2009, could rise further.
Markets have been rocked in recent weeks by concerns that mounting public debt levels might threaten the top notch credit ratings of issuers like the United States and Britain.
The cost of raising debt has risen steadily from historical lows since the start of this year, with the German 10-year Bund yield climbing some 70 basis points by late May.
"If the state has to pay more for debt, then obviously companies will have to pay more on top of that," said Kai Carstensen, chief economist of the Ifo research institute.
For all the funding difficulties, observers note that German companies have a stronger capital base than during the last marked economic downturn at the outset of the decade.
German construction firms' capital ratios rose to roughly 10-12 percent on average by 2007 from around 3-4 percent in 2001/2002, according to the HDB industry association.
However, such reserves can only last for so long.
Treier at the DIHK said it was not just a question of firms securing funding to invest: some needed it just to survive.
"So firms are doubly under pressure -- that's why they're switching to shorter hours like crazy," said Treier of the state-subsidized programme to support reduced working times.
[So shorter hours is happening anyway, but not in a coordinated systemic way that would reduce the labor surplus, harness market forces in maintaining or increasing jobs and wages and markets, and centrifuge the black hole of income and wealth in the top 0.01%, and re-establish a balance between investably marketable productivity and concentrated investable funds.]
A number of Germany's best known companies have turned to the state for financial support during the crisis, among them carmaker Porsche, lender Commerzbank and printing machine maker Heidelberger Druck.
Many more have resorted to Kurzarbeit, or shortened hours.
"There's talk now that shortened hours won't bridge the gap for much longer," Treier added. "So we could be set for a few nasty surprises in some quarters on the job front."
[Shortened hours is all there is, so just do it and don't assume any arbitrary floor in the age of robotics. Give everyone a piece of the natural market-demanded employment, however short a workweek it takes, and you'll get the multiplier effect working for you for a change.]
5/26/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Shorter Work Week for Mary Baldwin College this Summer, Reporter: Philip Townsend, Email Address: email@example.com, WHSV via whsv.com - Harrisonburg,VA,USA.
Officials at Mary Baldwin College are hoping to save money and energy by shortening the work week.
They hope to save about $50,000 by the end of the year by turning off lights, water and monitoring air conditioning on that extra day.
It's part of the Turn-It-Off campaign the school is joining for the first time. Officials say it's a great way to save money while helping the environment.
College Spokesperson Crista Cabe says, "I think not only making people aware of what they can do for the environment but what they can do for our budget. Economic times are tough for all of us and I think we are all more aware of where the pennies go."
Officials also say the four-day week will also allow commuters to cut down on gas spending for the summer.
- Government projections show retiring workers will leave BC very short, By Terri Theodore – The Canadian Press via google.com/hostednews/canadianpress.
VANCOUVER, B.C. — The B.C. government could lose as much as 60 per cent of its greying workforce in some ministries to retirement in the next decade, according to government documents.
It means government plans to chop $1.9 billion over the next three years, in part by cutting executive and ministry budgets, could make for short-term gain and some very long-term pain.
The information about the shrinking public service is revealed in a project application form for those wanting to apply for money from the Public Service Transformation Fund.
The fund, worth $50 million this year and $25 million next, was established in the last provincial budget to help find efficiencies in government and retain and target staff recruitment.
"Given demographic projections that the B.C. public service will be 30 to 57 per cent smaller within the next 10 years, we need to plan to deliver services with a shrinking labour force," the application form said.
Almost all the losses would be due to retirements, the document explains, and while some will be replaced, not all will be.
A background document said the biggest impact will be in the areas of corrections and enforcement, finance, information technology, science and technical officers and project management.
The document states that in some ministries, such as the Ministry of Energy, 41 per cent of regular employees could retire now and another 19 per cent will be eligible to retire within five years.
The 2009 B.C. budget calls for 20 per cent fewer senior executives in government over the next three years as part of the government quest to save money in the current economic downturn.
But while the government is looking to reduce the public sector, it will want to replace some of the retiring workers - something that could be difficult, the document warns.
"Recruiting and retaining new talent in a financially competitive marketplace is key," the document said.
It talks about further development of existing project managers and recruiting more senior project managers.
"The disparity between public-and private-sector compensation, combined with a very competitive labour market and small labour pool challenge the B.C. public service's ability to attract and retain qualified employees...," the document said.
Keeping those workers may be even more difficult if the government follows through with its other budget promise of holding the line on public-sector wage increases.
Murray Coell, the minister in charge of labour market development, agrees there will be a heavy strain on the public service over the next decade as people retire.
"We're going to have to be more appealing to attract people," Coell said.
But he said the B.C. government has also been rated one of the province's top 50 employers.
"That's the first time that's happened in decades, if ever."
Darryl Walker, president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union, said the province already has the leanest per-capita public service in the country.
"And we're very concerned that if it (cuts) gets any deeper, the services that we provide to the people of the province are simply going to go missing," he said.
Many public-sector contracts expire in March 31, 2010, after the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Coell said many of the staffing cuts announced in the budget could be done through attrition, but the budget cuts mean government would also be slower to hire in some areas.
The government is offering a four-day work week to about half of its 30,000 employees as part of a pilot project this summer, and expects to save about $5 million. The offer wasn't extended to workers where the government is already having recruitment and retention issues.
The $5-million figure will depend on how many employees opt into the plan.
Now that the election is finished, Walker believes the government could find the money by revising it's budget and increasing its deficit.
"The amount of the deficit they're going to run for this year, which from my perspective, for a province the size of British Columbia with our GDP-to-debt ratio is a very, very small number."
Coell said that decision would be up to the minister of finance.
Jessica McDonald, the head of B.C. public service, sent a letter to public servants to quell fears that the government had plans to cut the public service by 57 per cent.
McDonald explained the demographic challenge facing the sector.
"The current economic situation has also placed pressure on our workforce and ... our projections show that any layoffs that ultimately result from this pressure will be limited to less than five per cent of our organization," she wrote.
Walker said his union was cut deeply in the first mandate of the Gordon Campbell Liberals and he's worried McDonald's figure may not stand.
"I believe we'll see a different budget, if you will, now that the election's done and the Liberals have their mandate."
5/25/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
Once-safe mortgages endangered by job losses, by Peter Goodman & Jack Healy, NYT via Boston Globe via boston.com & hard copy, B7.
As job losses rise, growing numbers of American homeowners with once solid credit are falling behind on their mortgages, amplifying a wave of foreclosures.
In the latest phase of the nation's real estate disaster, the locus of trouble has shifted from subprime loans - those extended to home buyers with troubled credit - to the far more numerous prime loans issued to those with decent financial histories.
With many economists anticipating the unemployment rate will rise into the double digits, from its current 8.9%, foreclosures are expected to accelerate. That could exacerbate bank losses, adding pressure to the financial system and the broader economy.
"We're about to have a big problem," said Morris A. Davis, a real estate specialist at the University of Wisconsin. "Foreclosures were bad last year? It's going to get worse."
Economists refer to the current surge of foreclosures as the third wave, distinct from the initial spike, when speculators gave up property because of plunging real estate prices, and the secondary shock, when borrowers' introductory interest rates expired and were reset higher.
"We're right in the middle of this third wave, and it's intensifying," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com. "That loss of jobs and loss of overtime hours and being forced from a full-time to part-time job is resulting in defaults. They're coast to coast."
[So again, worktime per person is being cut anyway, but not in the best way.]
Those sliding into foreclosure today are more likely to be modest borrowers whose loans fit their income than the consumers of exotically lenient mortgages that formerly typified the crisis.
Economy.com expects that 60 percent of the mortgage defaults this year will be set off primarily by unemployment, up from 29 percent last year.
[How about quoting Timesizing.com, which expects that 100 percent of unemployment can be reduced - as quickly as you can convert overtime into training and jobs and cut the workweek to create as much more convertible overtime as you need for FULL EMPLOYMENT and markets - and resolidified mortgages.]
From November to February, the number of prime mortgages that were delinquent at least 90 days, were in foreclosure, or had deteriorated to the point that the lender took possession of the home increased more than 473,000, exceeding 1.5 million, according to a New York Times analysis of data provided by First American CoreLogic, a real estate research group. Those loans totaled more than $224 billion.
During the same period, subprime mortgages in those three categories increased by fewer than 14,000, reaching 1.65 million. The number of similarly troubled Alt-A loans - those given to people with slightly tainted credit - rose 159,000, to 836,000.
Overall, more than 4 million loans worth $717 billion were in the three distressed categories in February, a jump of more than 60 percent in dollar terms, compared with a year earlier.
Under a program announced in February by the Obama administration, the government is to spend $75 billion on incentives for mortgage servicing companies that reduce payments for troubled homeowners. The Treasury Department says the program will spare as many as 4 million homeowners from foreclosure.
But three months after the program was announced, a Treasury spokeswoman estimated the number of loans that have been modified at "more than 10,000 but fewer than 55,000."
In the first two months of the year alone, another 313,000 mortgages landed in foreclosure or became delinquent at least 90 days, according to First American CoreLogic.
5/24/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- County budget plan: No new taxes, By Steve Herring, Goldsboro News Argus via newsargus.com - Goldsboro,NC,USA.
Wayne County's 2009-10 budget draft is a mixture of nos -- no tax increase, no fee increases, no pay raises and no employee furloughs. It also is lean on capital projects, as well as travel and training for county employees.
The budget continues the county's practice of not filling most vacant job positions -- a practice expected to save hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Commissioners had been on target to get their first look at the budget last week. However, the budget was pushed to the back burner just over a week ago when County Manager Lee Smith was notified that Moody's, the agency that determines the county's credit rating, would be reviewing the county's financial status.
The review was Thursday, and on Friday work resumed on the budget.
Now commissioners should get their first look at the roughly $160 million draft budget later this week, giving them some time to peruse it prior to their June 2 meeting.
The board is expected to hold budget work sessions, and Smith will ask for a public hearing during the week of June 15.
Smith estimates the budget deficit to be about $5.5 million to $6 million, roughly 9.5 cents on the county tax rate. The rate, however, will remain at 76.4 cents per $100 of value.
"I am not recommending any tax increase, nor any fee increases," he said. "As far as property taxes and fees, expect them to be the same, and that was generally from the board. It was their feelings they wanted us to live within the revenues that we had. I think that is appropriate for the economic times we all are facing and are in.
"If you look at the budget, the one thing we are working on real hard is not to cut personnel. I have looked at the draft and right now I think that is the case. I think that we can, through certain efficiencies, and making certain cuts. I think we have cut a lot of capital and operations for this coming year. I think we can make it unless there is something out there that I do now know about, and that is always possible."
During initial budget meetings, someone brought up using history to plan the budget.
But even though it matters, it doesn't because the rules have changed, Smith said.
"The way sales taxes are being collected has changed, the way they are being divvied out has changed, values are fluctuating, so we are living by new rules," he said. "The baseline is this year. We had one four years ago, but that baseline now is moving to this year."
Complicating the budget process has been a decline in sales tax revenues and the state's multibillion-dollar deficit.
"We are hearing from credit rating folks, financial advisers on the state and national level and those managing large local governments, they are saying this is a four-to-five-year process," Smith said. "We wanted to find ways to hold tight, put some projects off.
"The board has said that for the next two years that a tax increase is not an option. We try to plan for the next year, but we have got to get through this legislative cycle and what they (state lawmakers) are going to do."
Smith said it is not an exciting budget, adding that department heads had "done a good job" coming in with cuts.
"They have not been real emotional because departments knew we had to pull it off," he said. "I told them there will be no new revenue. They made the cuts."
There had been some speculation that the budget would recommend furloughs for county employees as a cost-cutting measure.
"Right now, I do not have furloughs in the budget," Smith said. "I was able to make enough cuts. I had looked at them to give $400,000 to $500,000 this year by 20-30 hours off for all employees.
"Does that mean that it can't happen? It all depends. We could get into the budget for next year and things could change. Some cities and counties did. But having pared back the budget over the past several years helped, so we did not have to."
He added, "We have cut the county budget for three years running, and had we not done that, we would have been in really tough shape this year because we would have had to have gone deeper, and some of these other things we have discussed would have been required that would have affected employees.
"One of the things we will talk to the board about is that we are going to look at benefits. Benefits in this matter -- a lot of folks, when you retire after so many years, you get benefits."
An example is health insurance, he said.
Smith will recommend to the board that any employees hired after July 1 not be eligible for certain benefits, including insurance, when they retire.
It will not affect existing employees.
New accounting procedures require the county to account for future retirement benefits as a liability on the county's balance sheet.
Those numbers, he said, are "huge."
"I don't know that we can afford to continue that," he said. "I just don't think that we can afford it. It will be tough on recruiting people, but some counties already have cut it out."
Smith said he continues to look at values in the county and that he has talked to local Realtors.
"Values have held fairly well," he said. "Some have stayed on the market longer, but in a comparison to the rest of country and other parts of North Carolina, Wayne County did all right on value.
"We are beginning to see Register of Deeds activity pick up a little bit, inspections a little bit, but it is still not where it was and I don't expect it to be for a long time, years probably."
However, there are a couple of positions open in the inspection department that will not be filled or funded next year, unless activity comes back to a point that enough revenue could be generated to justify filling them.
The budget draft also includes less for travel and training. Only travel required to maintain certification or qualifications to do a job like an inspector will be permitted.
"Those things pay for themselves in the long run," he said.
Rather than travel, Smith said the county would look at ways to save by utilizing Webinars or online meetings. Or, he said, it might be feasible to have multiple counties plan training sessions in one place and bring the trainer to that location.
Smith also is looking to save money through lower fuel prices that have been complemented by a vehicle idling policy and the streamlining of vehicle routes. Additionally, utility savings have been realized through the county's four-day workweek that has been in effect since last August.
Between fuel and utility, Smith is hoping to save more than $300,000.
- The California Scare Campaign, by Matt Welch, Reason Online via reason.com - Los Angeles,CA,USA.
Previously on Spring Street Blues, we had told you about how California's political-journalist class was gearing up to frighten-slash-chastise Californians about the "annihilating cuts" coming their way now that petulant voters failed to heed the weary wisdom of their betters. As this article in yesterday's L.A. Times demonstrates, one primary method for this uncoordinated campaign is news articles unlabeled as opinion. Check out the following grafs, and consider that this represents the bulk of the argument contained therein.
[E]liminating as much as $24 billion from the proposed $95.5-billion general-fund portion of the 2009-10 state budget would further corrode an economy already creaking under the weight of a national recession.
Distressed car dealers could see sales to state agencies shrink, printing shops may lose business as courts and other government operations shorten their workweek, and office-equipment suppliers would lose sales as cash-strapped agencies make do with aging copiers.
And cutting as many as 5,000 state jobs, and perhaps thousands more as budget reductions cascade down to schools and local governments, would hit especially hard in a state that already has the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the nation.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed slashing state spending on education by $3 billion to help close the budget gap, and the state would pay dearly for canceling classes, firing instructors, cutting class days and shortening the school year, experts said.
Promising students would go to other states, taking their future skills, earnings and, possibly, Nobel Prizes elsewhere. California companies would then find it harder to attract high-value employees who might be dubious about moving to a state with sub-par schools. [...]
John Sedgwick, co-founder of Santa Clara solar-energy company Solaicx, agreed.
"When you think about the genesis of Silicon Valley, it really started from its superior educational base" at Stanford and UC Berkeley, said Sedgwick, whose company makes the building blocks for photovoltaic cells. "That indicates that you don't want to kill the goose that's laying the golden eggs." [...]
Businesses have long complained about big-spending government in California. But with state and local spending accounting for about one-fifth of the state's gross domestic product, California is in line with some other heavily populated, expensive-to-manage states, such as New York and Florida. [...]
"Government is supposed to be a stabilizing influence, and instead they're becoming part of the problem," said Christopher Thornberg of Beacon Economics. "They should be spending when everyone else is cutting back. They should be buying cars when no one else is buying cars."
Eight quick counterpoints:
1) The alternative scenario, represented by the various tax increases and budget gimmicks that failed to pass muster last week, is never introduced as a comparison point. The mostly dreamed-up scenarios about that $24 billion cut (which I'll believe when I see) are never compared to the effect of tax hikes on a wobbly economy and suffering populace. Traditionally, all else being equal, smaller taxes equals more economic growth.
2) An economy (or business strategy) that relies on the government buying cars is neither sustainable in the long-term nor an efficient use of taxpayer dollars at any time. As Jacob Sullum has repeatedly pointed out, "That's a recipe for wasteful spending that will divert resources from more productive uses, and ultimately for higher unemployment than would otherwise occur." Put another way, there have indeed been many countries whose governments have provided most of the spending, and whose unemployment figures were very low. These were, in most cases, countries that couldn't afford many cars, on account of being so poor.
3) Do you know how many 5,000 state jobs are? A whopping 2 percent of the state work force, maximum. If that's "annihilating," how on earth would you characterize a 3 percent cut? As genocide?
4) Use of the word "experts" is one of the great tells in journalism. It usually means something close to "those people I cherry-picked to agree with my thesis." It is an artificial and scientific-sounding reputation-enhancer, one used in stark contrasts to the way that critics of said thesis will be portrayed in the same article.
5) "Promising students would go to other states, taking their future skills, earnings and, possibly, Nobel Prizes elsewhere"? What? There is no scenario being contemplated that I'm aware of where the net number of University of California students will be decreased under whatever cuts are coming. Does higher tuition = less Nobel Prizes? I dunno, ask the aforementioned Stanford, which IS A PRIVATE UNIVERSITY THAT WON'T BE AFFECTED BY THESE ANNIHILATING CUTS, YA MAROON.
6) California companies would then find it harder to attract high-value employees who might be dubious about moving to a state with sub-par schools. Here is the fundamental point behind every California budget story: The state has increased spending on K-12 education by 40 percent under Schwarzenegger (it has to; by dumb law, 40 cents on every state dollar has to go to education). The main drain on the California economy is that these massive increases in spending are producing ZERO noticeable improvements. Because the union-run school districts are infamous laboratories for inefficiency, job protection, and corruption, the state spends and spends, with nothing to show for it. Teachers unions are literally running out of other people's money, and now they warn us about "sub-par schools"? That par got done subbed a long time ago. If politicians, journalists, and other "experts" want to defend the status quo (of constant spending increases), then they need to explain why Californians need to keep throwing more and more good money after bad on a K-12 system that is showing no results.
7) Remember what I said about the opposite of "experts"? "Businesses have long complained about big-spending government," sez the Times. So in a direct comnparison here, the "experts" "said" that "the state would pay dearly" for education cuts; meanwhile "businesses" have "complained" about spending. Of course, the next sentence starts with the word "But." It's almost as if this is an editorial instead of a news article! Well, not quite–the editorial version would call the opposition "small-government zealots [who] lecture smugly that California has gotten its comeuppance for years of prodigal spending and unrighteous living." I swear to God I am not making that sentence up.
8) Speaking of that big "But," there are two other classic weasel-word phrases in the ensuing sentence– "some," and "such as." This allows the writer to ignore a state that is much closer to California's population, geography, and demographics than Florida or New York: Texas. According to U.S. Government Spending dot com, California state and local governments are currently spending 21.9 percent of GDP, compared to 14.5 percent for Texas. Big diff. Also, the whole GDP comparison in the first place, while useful, implicitly suggests that at minimum government spending should march right along with private-sector wealth creation.
I have no doubt whatsoever that some of the impending California budget cuts will be painful, inflicting harm on precisely the type of person you might otherwise want to help with a social safety net. That's not because the state is spending just the right amount of money right now, but because the state, like all lumbering bureaucracies (including the L.A. Times) is even more horribly inefficient in cutting spending than it is at spending money in the first place. The Times is a useful example in this case: For around a decade of job cuts, the paper didn't go around firing the newsroom's ample dead wood, it offered buyouts to anyone who would walk. And who is most likely to take such a deal? People who are confident they can match their earnings elsewhere. In other words, the employable.
Calfornia lawmakers, and the unions who put them into office, will do everything in their power to cut services first, employees last. That is indeed a crucial reason why we got here in the first place. Any analysis that doesn't explore how a higher-than-inflation-plus-immigration budget has failed to deliver on any increase in services, is not an analysis worth taking more seriously than common propaganda.
5/23/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Four-day work week proposal for city workers poses more than a few hurdles — COLUMN - COLUMN: Status quo works, Posted By DOUG MILLROY, SaultStar.com - Sault Ste-Marie,Ontario,Canada.
When I read last week that council had directed city staff to examine the potential of offering a four-day work week to its employees as a means of saving money, a question immediately came to mind. Has city hall and its ancillary operations really been overstaffed to such an extent all these years that something like this could actually fly?
Chief administrative officer Joe Fratesi doesn't think so.
Fratesi told councillors during budget deliberations that the four-day work week is a nice concept but a reduced work week will mean a cut in services.
I tend to agree.
Even though you sometimes see five public works employees standing around a hole while one digs, I believe overall that cutting back in the number of days worked in a week, even though on a voluntary basis, would have to mean a cut in some services.
How could it be otherwise? What if everyone in a department went for it?Would you close that department down for a day or would you have some be off Friday and some off monday or would you give some a day off during the week?
Any way you slice it, letting these people off without replacements would be like saying the department had been overstaffed before.
And considering the troop shortages would be even more acute when staffers are off on holidays, wouldn't this pose a scheduling nightmare for department heads attempting to keep the department functioning at full capacity?
If in public works every member of a crew but one opted for the four-day week, what would the employee do on the day he or she was alone? could he or she dig with no one watching or watch with no one digging?
Could some departments be excluded from participation in the four-day work week? it certainly couldn't apply to essential services like police and fire and i would think that would take in public works, too.
If a person on a four-day work week quit or retired, would the person hired as a replacement be hired on for a four-day work week or a fiveday work week?Would he or she have the choice or would this be up to the department head?
If an employee who had opted for a four-day work week decided he or she didn't like the cut in pay, would he or she be able to return to a five-day week or would the city, since the work was indeed being done in four days, be able to refuse the request?
If all employees in a department wanted to return to a fiveday work week, would the city be able to declare one position redundant and eliminate it since the work had been done in four days?
Does anyone really think unions would opt for such a scheme?
Since there seemed to be some confusion as to who came up with the idea for the four-day work week, the sault star's Elaine della-mattia attributing it to coun. Pat mick and sootoday.com to coun. susan myers, I contacted the two by e-mail to find out who actually did come up with it.
It was mick. she confirmed in a message on my voice mail that she was acting on a suggestion from a constituent.
"It's something that definitely needs to be studied, but if there are no savings, why do it?" she said during budget deliberations.
In her reply to my e-mail, in which she also confirmed the idea came from mick, myers said she, "strongly endorsed moving forward on directing staff immediately, even with a resolution then and there, to look at this option now in preparation for longer-term solutions to reduce costs.
"I did emphasize strongly that I viewed this as a voluntary-based exercise only.
"Further, I noted in Elaine's piece a reference by the cao to being closed Fridays. that would not be my thought at all. I could see reduced hours in some areas with certain services but never a total shutdown on any given day.
"And indeed, no thought of longer workdays."
Acting mayor Bryan Hayes had been quoted as supporting the concept, saying that it was something he had been promoting at his workplace with senior management.
But in his e-mail to me he said his perception was different to that held by myers.
"E envision a combination of longer hours per day as well as three concurrent days off where possible. my support for this initiative is two-fold, cost savings to the organization and thus the taxpayer, as well as an increased quality of life for an individual who will now have an extra day during the week to tend to family matters . . .
"In terms of Joe's suggestion that city hall could perhaps be closed on Friday, that would serve the purpose of reducing the carbon imprint, which is certainly important. I am pre-pared to look at all options, which could include more saturday services than we currently have and reduced services other days of the week. after all, the city is a service provider, and there are a number of constituents who need saturdays to conduct business.
"My initial thought, though, was that for those who currently work a 40-hour work week or eight hours a day over five days that this could perhaps become nine hours a day over four days for a 36-hour work week, resulting in savings to the taxpayer.
"In terms of the individual employee, there would be some loss of salary; that would in part be offset by less income tax being deducted.
"It's important to note that this would not be imposed upon staff if it is something the majority are not in favour of. At this point in time, I would simply like to see management come up with a few scenarios, and conduct a poll of staff to see if this is something that interests them."
I think Hayes's proposal would be looked on more favourably by staff than that proposed by mick because they would only lose a half-day's pay while still getting a four-day work week. that could be a sellable trade-off.
However, I believe the only way it would really work would be to go to 10 hours a day, four days a week.
That, of course, wouldn't save the city a cent. But it would at least give managers a far better chance of maintaining services at the level we are used to.
I am not against a four-day work week per se, but I can't see it being offered across the board. I can only see it being offered in areas where a day or two of lost time wouldn't be missed.
And there can be no thought of closing city hall one day a week or reducing services.
But if I had my druthers, it would be status quo. It is proven; it works.
Doug Millroy, editor emeritus of The Sault Star, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Shorter hours bid to cut job losses, ThisIsLincolnshire.co.uk.
Lincoln manufacturing firm Bifrangi (UK) has announced another 33 job cuts on top of the 48 redundancies announced last month.
But staff are being consulted on proposals for a shorter working week which could reduce the number of jobs which are culled.
Materials manager Russell Webster said compulsory redundancies had not been ruled out.
"We have been asking for volunteers and we would hope that we would get the volunteers, otherwise we will have to go through due process."
Mr Webster blamed the economic downturn on the decision.
"The staff are considering whether they would be prepared to work a shorter week to help mitigate the numbers that we have to lose," he added.
"How long that week would be has yet to be agreed with the workforce."
The steel forging company which supplies the automotive industry currently has a workforce of 135 at its site in Tower Works, Stamp End.
5/22/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Chesapeake schools to cut summer hours, teacher prep, By Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer, The Virginian-Pilot via
HamptonRoads.com - Norfolk,VA,USA.
A four-day work week for Chesapeake teachers is included in the new 2009-2010 budget approved last night.
The $397 million budget includes some changes to the one that the board sent to the City Council, including savings on electricity from the shorter work week during the summer.
The original budget proposed cutting the number of days that some employees - band and chorus teachers, for instance - work during the summer to prepare for the school year. Most of those teachers had their number of "extended-contract" days cut by 10.
To make the transition easier, the board agreed on Monday to cut the number of extended-contract days by five next year and five the year after that. That requires finding about $125,000 extra to cut from the 2009-2010 budget, said Superintendent W. Randolph Nichols.
That's "not a whole lot" of money from a $397 million budget, he said, but he's not sure where the cuts will come from. A few tweaks to the plan are still to come.
Alicia Wittmeyer, (757) 222-5216, email@example.com
- WorkShare helping workers and employers, By Benjamin N. Gedan, RI News via Providence Journal via projo.com - Providence,RI,USA.
WESTERLY –– Three days a week, you can still find Margaret Turner at her usual spot, peering through a magnifying glass, pliers in hand, stripping the ends of wires and attaching custom connectors for submarines.
But lately, Turner’s workbench has been quiet on Thursdays and Fridays, since Ametek SCP trimmed her hours.
Businesses across Rhode Island have taken similar steps over the past two years of recession, lightening the paychecks of thousands of workers.
The impact of those cutbacks is not captured in the state’s 11.1-percent unemployment rate, which speaks only of workers who have lost their jobs.
But a review of the state’s WorkShare program, which provides unemployment payments to workers forced into a part-time schedule, hints at how widespread that has become.
In March, 3,781 workers participated in the WorkShare program, up from 539 a year ago. That seven-fold increase has ballooned the state’s monthly payments to a total of $1.7 million from $175,000. Participation is higher than it has ever been.
“It’s astounding,” said Raymond A. Filipone, assistant director of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, which runs the program.
The push toward shorter workweeks at firms such as Darlington Fabrics and Taco is holding down wages in Rhode Island. The average salary rose by only 2.6 percent, to $42,423, for the year that ended in September, compared with a 4.1 percent jump two years ago.
The manufacturing workweek has been particularly squeezed. Over the past year, factory workers still lucky enough to get shifts lost on average six-tenths of an hour of work, according to state data.
“There’s less work to push out the door,” said Robert F. Valentini, founder of the drug development firm Myomics and an economic adviser to Governor Carcieri. “Even in the medical field, people are not holding inventory as long. That means production has to get cut.”
Not everyone logging shorter days is eligible for WorkShare.
The program, for example, is only open to employees who previously worked 30 to 40 hours per week. To participate, a worker’s employer must not cut hours by more than half, and cuts must be applied equally across a division.
Even workers signed up for WorkShare are not made whole by the program. Typically, the state pays a worker about 60 percent of lost wages.
But while the growth in WorkShare is another symptom of the state’s weak economy, it is also a marked success for the Department of Labor and Training.
State officials say the program helps ease the financial sting of lost hours. And by making it easier for businesses to cut expenses, WorkShare reduces the need for layoffs.
That helps companies retain skilled workers, whose hours can easily be increased if orders pick up. Participating businesses include banks, mortgage brokers, car dealerships, law firms and doctors’ offices.
“Companies want to stay in business,” Filipone said. “They’re trying to get through the low period.”
The money comes from the same state account that pays the jobless, further depleting a fund that is now doling out money borrowed from the federal government.
But by staving off layoffs, Filipone said, WorkShare avoids potentially deeper strains on the fund. Not only does a laid-off worker collect more than a WorkShare recipient, but layoffs reduce contributions from businesses into the system.
Ametek, the Westerly defense contractor that supplies Raytheon and Electric Boat, laid off six employees in 2008. But since signing up for WorkShare in August, it has held on to its remaining 80 personnel.
In all, 71 Ametek employees are collecting WorkShare checks. Idled on most Thursdays and Fridays, they have kept three days of shifts at the assembly plant, as well as their medical insurance and employer retirement contributions.
“We didn’t want to lose our quality people,” Dean A. Findeisen, the human resources manager, said. “It’s a very unique business. We spent a lot of time getting them up to speed.”
Despite her WorkShare cushion, Turner, an assembler and solderer for the past three years, figures she’s down about a day’s pay. But she says she is simply happy to have a job.
“It’s really tough out there,” Turner, 57, said in an interview at the plant, where compressed-air hoses dangle from low ceilings. “Versus being totally unemployed, it’s a big plus. There aren’t any jobs out there.”WorkShare in Rhode Island
March 2008: 539 participants, $175,461 monthly cost to the state
March 2009: 3,781 participants, $1,723,798 monthly cost to the state
5/21/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- How to avoid laying off your staff, by Karen Kroll, Bankrate.com - USA.
For most organizations, personnel-related costs are among the most significant, and with sales remaining flat at many businesses, it's tempting to look to layoffs as a way to cut costs.
Even so, using other tactics to keep personnel costs in line offers several tangible benefits. Most immediately, you limit the morale-busting impact of a layoff, says Jason Zickerman, president and chief executive officer with The Alternative Board in Denver.
Later on, when the economy picks up -- which it will -- you won't have to bring in new employees to replace those you let go. "People underestimate the time, cost and energy required to hire and train people," Zickerman adds.
Finally, layoffs can prompt concerns about your firm's viability. Finding alternative ways to save money can help you avoid panicky business partners.
Keeping it real with employees
As a starting point, determine just how much you need to trim costs, says Mark McCooey, owner of SEI Industries, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based manufacturer of products for the aviation and firefighting industries.
Next, you want to discuss the situation and communicate options to your employees. While many business leaders hesitate to talk about business conditions with employees, most already are nervous, says Bill Conerly with Conerly Consulting LLC in Lake Oswego, Ore. "You might as well address the issue head on."
Distributing a summary-level financial statement also helps ensure that "the staff is in touch with reality. Otherwise employees sense something is wrong, but don't know what," says Ed Boswell, chief executive officer with The Forum Corp., a Boston-based consulting firm.
“A crisis can bring a company together or tear it apart.”
In late spring of 2008, SEI's sales began dropping. After some number-crunching, McCooey figured he would have to cut personnel costs about 20 percent. McCooey then talked with employees. Without getting into dollar figures, he let them know how the business was doing and offered options: layoffs, or switching everyone to a four-day workweek.
Sharing the pain
Presenting options, if possible, is key, McCooey says. Simply mentioning layoffs without talking about solutions will just scare employees, some of whom will look for other jobs.
McCooey also let employees vote on the potential solutions. "They all voted to share the pain," and move to four-day weeks, he says. As a result, SEI was able to cut expenses, yet retain its employees and their knowledge.
Most employees at Wheat Ridge Cyclery in Wheat Ridge, Colo. also have moved to a four-day workweek, with benefits, because of a drop in sales, says Ron Kiefel, general manager and an Olympic bronze medalist. Like McCooey, Kiefel wanted to keep his staff as intact as possible and not lay off anyone.
Kiefel also kept his staff of 25 informed about the business. "In my role, it's important to be positive but truthful," Kiefel says. Along with maintaining morale, this lets Kiefel tap into employees' ideas and energy to boost revenue and reduce expenses. For example, Wheat Ridge offers free tune-ups to customers six months after they've bought a bike.
Employees have been calling customers to let them know about the service. Those who come in often see other items they'd like to buy. Kiefel also is having employees work on minor remodeling and organizational projects that are difficult to get done when customer traffic is brisk. Once these projects are completed, Wheat Ridge may be able to get by without additional hires when sales pick up.
[There's the smart - here - and the stupid = next article. Unfortunately the stupid are in what passes for our healthcare system.]
- Shorter hours for medical residents could be costly, AHIP Solutions SmartBrief.com.
[But staying with 80-hour workweeks could be costlier.]
A new study found that allowing medical residents to work fewer hours and have longer naps during shifts could cost teaching hospitals $1.6 billion annually, with no guarantees that the change would reduce medical errors or improve patient safety.
[You need guarantees after all the survey results to that effect?! These people are dangerously stupid.]
Some experts say the shorter shifts would create more patient hand-offs and less continuity of care. Forbes (05/20)
[Then hire more help, duh. Who wants a medico working on you in the 79th hour of her workweek?!]
5/20/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Palmer battles cutbacks, By NANCY H. GONTER firstname.lastname@example.org, The Republican - MassLive.com - Springfield,MA,USA.
PALMER, Massachusetts - Town councilors are struggling to figure out how the town will deal with a potential cut in state aid of $1.2 million.
The council will meet Thursday at 7 p.m. to get input from school officials about what the impact of a cut of $231,255 would be on the School Department, where layoffs are already expected.
Councilors met Monday to review a list of budget cut proposals from Town Manager Matthew S. Streeter that range from cutting town employees to a four-day week over the summer to the elimination of the town's conservation agent.
And, councilors asked Streeter to find out whether town employees whose hours are reduced to four days a week can receive unemployment.
Streeter said it's going to be a difficult budget.
"Things are not going to get done. There are services that we'll no longer be able to provide. If it's the ease of town offices not being open five days a week, so be it," Streeter said.
Streeter said he will meet with unions to see if they will agree to reductions in hours or face layoffs.
Councilor Barbara A. Barry said she thinks the town is handling the budget process "entirely wrong."
"We as a council need to set our funding priorities," Barry said.
She questioned the use of a four-day work week over the summer, saying some departments are already overburdened. Barry proposed going into executive session to discuss contract negotiations, but ended up withdrawing the motion.
Several councilors said they should let Streeter make the decisions because that's his job.
"I think there is a fine line between telling him how to run the town and giving him guidance. I don't think we've fully done that," council President Michael R. Magiera said.
Councilor John B. Dinuovo said that the town has leaders for the municipal budget, the schools and the library.
"It's not coherent to go through this and say, 'Do you really need that copier?' That's what we've done for the past five or six years. People get fired if they don't do their job or they do it poorly," he said.
Councilors Philip J. Hebert and Roger R. Duguay agreed.
Other cuts being proposed by Streeter include a $27,000 cut to the library budget, not purchasing a police cruiser and reduction of most employees' hours to four days a week over the summer. He is also proposing use of $200,000 of free cash.
- Recreation mission - Cutting hours and adding fees will limit access to city recreation opportunities for many local youngsters. editorial, Lawrence Journal World via LJWorld.com - Lawrence,KS,USA.
The interim director of the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department is correct in saying the city is trying to walk “a fine line” as it discusses ways to trim the department’s budget.
Balancing residents’ desire for facilities and activities against their ability and willingness to pay for those services is a difficult chore. It’s a sad situation, however, especially at the beginning of summer, for the city to be looking at increased fees or shorter hours, either of which could limit access to city facilities for local children.
A recent online survey conducted by Parks and Rec indicated that many local residents would be willing to pay something, but not much, to use facilities. About half of those responding said they would be willing to pay $1 to use the city’s wading pool or the weight rooms at local recreation centers and maybe $2 to go to the Prairie Park Nature Center. City officials correctly wonder whether the cost of collecting such a low fee would be worth it.
Because the city already charges admission at its two aquatic centers, raising fees there would be profitable unless it make the costs prohibitive for some families. A significant percentage of those surveyed said they would rather cut hours for the pools or recreation facilities than to charge additional fees.
Why do we have these facilities if we aren’t going to use them fully? They are intended to serve Lawrence residents, some of whom can’t afford to pay for private recreation venues and many of whom are children. City officials certainly should keep the current situation in mind as they consider building new recreational facilities in the future. If the city can’t afford to operate the facilities it has, there is no reason to build more.
Interestingly, 71 percent of those responding to the survey said the city should continue to spend $12,000 for summer band concerts in South Park, and 79 percent said the downtown planter and beautification program was an essential service. Why not seek some private sponsorship for those programs, especially the band concerts? There was broad survey support for allowing advertising at the city’s outdoor athletic fields.
Keeping downtown beautiful may be an “essential” service for Parks and Rec, but for many taxpayers, providing recreational opportunities for Lawrence youngsters is the department’s “most essential” mission. If we can’t provide at least some of those opportunities at no cost and others at a reasonable cost and at ample and reasonable hours, we will have failed in that mission.
- Germany extends short-work benefits, AP via Forbes - NY,USA.
The German government decided Wednesday to extend benefits for people put on shorter working hours, expanding an arrangement that is being extensively used in the economic crisis.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet decided to increase to two years from 18 months the maximum payout period for benefits to top up income, starting on July 1, the Labor Ministry said.
The benefits cover as much as 67 percent of the income that workers lose out on by being partially idled.
The change approved Wednesday also will lessen the burden on companies, with the government's Federal Labor Agency rather than firms picking up part of the bill for workers' social welfare insurance contributions after six months of short work.
Many companies have cut hours to avoid axing workers as they scale down production to cope with reduced demand. A slump in exports has hurt Germany hard, and the economy contracted by 3.8 percent in the first quarter.
The Federal Labor Agency has said that some 19,400 companies applied for short-work benefits for a total of 446,400 people in April.
Partly thanks to the arrangement, unemployment numbers in Germany have yet to surge. In April, the jobless rate stood at 8.6 percent.
"Although the government has to bear the total costs of short time work, it avoids at the same time the ... costs of unemployment benefits," Alexander Koch, an economist with UniCredit in Munich, said in a research note.
"A significant share of short-time workers can be expected to eventually end up unemployed as firms have to adjust their capacity permanently," he added. "However, this instrument increases the likelihood that the worst fears for the labor market won't become reality."
5/19/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Deschutes won't reduce services - Proposed 2009-10 budget eliminates about 30 jobs compared with prior year, By Hillary Borrud / The Bulletin via BendBulletin.com - Bend,OR,USA.
Deschutes County’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year is 10 percent less than the current budget and pays for about 30 fewer employees, but it will maintain the county’s current service levels, officials said Monday.
The county budget committee is scheduled to continue reviewing the spending plan through Thursday, when it could be approved before being sent on to the County Commission for final approval in June.
The proposed fiscal year 2009-10 budget is about 10 percent leaner than the current year’s spending plan, at $281.3 million. The county has eliminated the equivalent of 33.2 full-time employees in the proposed budget, compared with county staffing as of July 1, 2008.
About half of those job reductions came from layoffs, while the remainder will come through attrition, according to the budget.
The staff reductions and other cuts are intended to bring spending in line with county revenues, which have fallen in departments such as Community Development and the Clerk’s Office due to the housing market slowdown and recession.
“Deschutes County has watched nearly every one of its revenue streams decline, in some cases by percentages never before seen by the county,” County Administrator Dave Kanner wrote in the proposed budget.
Despite the spending cuts, the county will not reduce services in the upcoming fiscal year, Kanner said during the Monday meeting. The Community Development Department reduced its hours by 10 percent this year, but demand for building permits and other services related to construction have decreased. The county Mental Health Department also reduced its hours by 10 percent, but information about whether the reduction has impacted services was not available on Monday.
“I just want to emphasize that as it is, I’m able to present a budget to you that doesn’t add any services, but at the same time, we’re not doing a slash and burn [to] the budget the way a lot of other jurisdictions in the state and across the country are doing,” Kanner said.
Staff in departments throughout the county government “dug deep” to reduce costs in the upcoming fiscal year, particularly money they normally set aside for “just in case expenditures” such as employee travel, conferences, education, overtime and temporary employees, Kanner said.
In preparing the budget, the County Commission made protecting four areas a priority: the Sheriff’s Office, the Assessor’s Office, the Clerk’s Office and the Tax Office, according to Kanner’s budget presentation.
Three of those, the Clerk’s Office, Assessor’s Office and Tax Office, bring in revenue the county uses to support a wide variety of services.
Along with planning for next year, Commissioner Tammy Baney said, officials also need to look ahead at how to best provide services in the future.
“We’re taking into consideration future years with today’s decisions,” Baney said. “The decisions we make today are going to determine our financial stability in the future.”
Earlier this year, it looked like the county would face a $933,754 budget shortfall in its general fund in 2009-10, and Kanner proposed cutting $254,222 from the Juvenile Community Justice Department, $93,253 from the Health Department, and other reductions.
In mid-April, the county’s chapter of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees union voted to postpone a 3 percent cost-of-living raise, which Kanner has estimated will save between $500,000 and $800,000.
The union’s concession allowed the county to reduce the proposed cuts, although the Juvenile Community Justice Department still faces a reduction in county general fund money of $101,000 and the Health Department has a proposed funding cut of $25,000 in 2009-10.
A decrease in tourists visiting Deschutes County has led to a decrease in one of the county’s major funding sources — transient lodging taxes from hotel and other vacation rentals, and county staff expect them to decrease by 26.4 percent in the upcoming budget year, to $2.6 million.
The Community Development Department cut staff and hours of service this year and also received an injection of county tax funds to survive.
In the proposed 2009-10 budget, the department will receive $1.5 million in general taxpayer funds. “Clearly, this is a subsidy that cannot continue,” Kanner said. “This is not sustainable.”
The Community Development Department eventually needs to return to a 40-hour week regardless of when the building industry rebounds, because the demand for services from the Environmental Health Division, which inspects septic systems, restaurants, pools and public water systems, has not decreased. Since the Community Development Department reduced its hours by 10 percent, the Environmental Health Division had to fit the same amount of work into a shorter workweek.
Commissioners, who are part of the budget committee along with three members of the community, said Monday they were pleased with the budget, and good financial decisions in the past prepared the county to make it through a difficult economy.
“It makes me, as one of the (budget) committee members, feel good Deschutes County has prepared itself for a day like this,” said Commissioner Alan Unger.
Commissioner Dennis Luke agreed. “I think we’ll be able to provide a reasonable level of service to our constituents.”
Hillary Borrud can be reached at 541-617-7829 or at email@example.com.
- Ingra plans to cut down the workweek, Makfax.com.mk - Skopije,Macedonia.
Zagreb - Construction company Ingra is considering cutting down the workweek to four days, or 32 working hours, due to the global economic crisis, which especially hit the construction industry.
Ingra has recently opened a bankruptcy procedure on the Macedonia-based construction company Mavrovo, as its majority stake-holder.
According to the Croatian media, reduction of the working week is just one of possibilities for solving the issues with insolvency and poor home sales, which are troubling almost all construction companies.
Some European countries have already shortened the workweek. In Croatia, trade unions, employers, and the Government all propose it as a good anti-recession measure. /end/ nv
- Russia's AvtoVAZ to slash work week in June, Reuters.com.
MOSCOW - AvtoVAZ (AVAZ.MM) will slash working hours starting in June, Russia's largest car maker said on Tuesday, less than two months after the government unveiled a massive bailout plan meant to keep auto workers employed.
The collapse in the Russian auto industry has shown no signs of abating, with total sales cut in half by a lack of consumer confidence and the unavailability of car loans. [ID:nLC392256]
AvtoVAZ, in which France's Renault (RENA.PA) holds a 25 percent stake, said such market conditions demand "harsh cost cutting".
Starting in June, its plants will work only one eight-hour shift five times per week.
[= 8 x 5 = a 40-hour workweek]
This is down from the two six-hour shifts done four times a week currently.
[= (2x6)x4 = 12 x 4 = a 48-hour workweek]
"The work schedule of our business in June was brought on by changing labour conditions and the need to take harsh cost cutting measures while saving jobs," AvtoVAZ, which employs more than 100,000 people, said in a statement.
In hopes of avoiding mass layoffs, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin committed over $1 billion in state support for Russia's ailing auto industry during a visit to an AvtoVAZ factory in March [ID:nLU451313].
Jobless rates have hit 10 percent in Russia, with 8.7 million people unemployed, on forced holiday or unpaid leave.
(Reporting by Anton Doroshev, writing by Simon Shuster; Editing by Hans Peters)
[So once again, it's happening anyway, but not in the best way.]
5/18/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- More flexibility for bosses to cut costs and save jobs, By Kor Kian Beng,, StraitsTimes.com - Singapore.
EMPLOYERS have been given a revised set of guidelines on managing excess workers, in a move to further help them cut costs and save jobs.
Shorter work week
# Non-working days not to exceed three days in a week. Shorter week not to last more than three months at a stretch. Previously, it was two days in a week and not more than two months.
It was prompted by the worsening economy and prospects of a prolonged recession, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Sunday, in a statement with tripartite partners the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).
The changes are targeted primarily at giving businesses that continue to struggle to stay afloat, more room to design new work arrangements before considering layoffs.
Said Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong, in announcing them: 'It's important to provide adequate flexibility to employers so that they can weather the recession because we really don't know how long this recession will last.'
Some of the key changes include a shorter work week; introducing no-pay leave; urging companies without a Monthly Variable Component (MVC) in their wage structures to treat any cut in basic pay of up to 10 per cent as an MVC cut; and, if reductions of the variable components are not enough, to consider cutting the Annual Wage Supplement or 13th month payment.
News on the updated Tripartite Guidelines on Managing Excess Manpower was given on Saturday for release to the media on Sunday.
The announcement was made at a NTUC event by Mr Gan, with Mr Bob Tan, SNEF's vice-president, and Mr Heng Chee How, deputy secretary-general of NTUC. The minister also noted that the earlier guidelines had saved jobs and prevented higher unemployment.
But despite some economists seeing signs of recovery in this second quarter, 'the tripartite partners are very mindful that we are still a long way from a sustained recovery', said NTUC secretary-general Lim Swee Say on Sunday, when commenting on the new guidelines.
He also stressed that management must lead by example, taking deeper pay cuts and ahead of rank and file workers. By doing so, 'we as a labour movement...are more committed, more willing to go along', he added....
Read the full story in The Straits Times today.
- Ford Workers Blast 4-Day Work Week, AP via The Moscow Times via moscowtimes.ru - Russia.
[Only half the labor movement has ever "got it" when it comes to avoiding wage-bashing labor surplus by cutting working hours. If the workers here have any alternative to suggest. it's not mentioned in the article. But then, isn't Russia the land where "employees pretend to work and employers pretend to pay them"?]
ST. PETERSBURG -- About 100 workers of the Ford Motor assembly plant on Friday protested the introduction of a four-day working week amid the slumping demand for cars.
The plant's managers intend to cut the working week from June through October, said the plant's spokeswoman Yekaterina Kulinenko.
"We gathered to protest such measures because we understand that it will lead to a salary cut of about 25 percent," said the plant's union leader Alexei Etmanov, who led the protest in the town of Vsevolozhsk outside St. Petersburg, where the plant is located.
The plant hasn't been working on Fridays for the past four weeks, but workers were paid two-thirds of their salary due for that day, Etmanov said.
Kulinenko said the move was caused by a drop in demand for cars amid the financial crisis.
"The sales of Ford Focus cars produced in Vsevolozhsk dropped by 40 percent during the first four months of the year," she said.
"Therefore, we had to make the unpopular decision to cut the volume of work and, accordingly, the working week, in order to save the working positions at the plant."
[So what's workers' alternative??]
The Ford plant began its work in Vsevolozhsk, outside St. Petersburg, in 2002. The plant, which currently employs about 2,000 workers, produced 65,000 Ford Focus and Ford Mondeo cars last year.
Foreign automakers had been looking to the Russian market to bolster flagging sales in the more saturated Western countries, but those hopes have been dimmed as Russia's economy is hammered by the financial crisis.
5/17/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Airline Ticket Prices Need To Go Up, By Henry Blodget, BusinessInsider.com.
The Buffalo plane crash earlier this year had a simple cause: The pilots blew it.
There's no way that human error will ever be completely eliminated from commercial air travel, but the combination of carelessness, inexperience, and fatigue that doomed the Buffalo flight shows clearly that we need to do better.
How can we do better?
* Better training
* Shorter work hours
* Better pay (which will attract better talent)
* Better monitoring of real-time performance (regular reviews of pilot decisions and habits during routine flights, so we don't need to wait for disasters to learn what needs to be done)
All of this, of course, would cost money. So airlines won't do it voluntarily. Which means it needs to be mandated--so all airlines have to do it the same way and are on the same playing field.
And since most airlines are already operating in the red, airline ticket prices need to go up. In some cases, radically.
We've become so accustomed to nearly free air travel that the mere suggestion of this will trigger howls of protest. Before you join this chorus, however, read the transcripts of the two pilots chatting in the Buffalo cockpit while failing to notice that the plane was losing airspeed at a dangerous rate--followed by the two errors they then made that caused the crash (pulling back on the stick instead of pushing forward, and raising the flaps--both so basic that pilots-in-training get them drilled into heads long before their first solo flights).
And also read this New York Times story on the sub-fast-food pay and frightening sleep habits of many young pilots. Then ask yourself whether we really shouldn't be willing to pay another $50 or $100 per ticket to avoid this.
- The state of coal - As steelmakers cut production, and coal stockpiles increase, Alabama miners are nervous about the future, By Patrick Rupinski, 5/16 TuscaloosaNews.com.
Two years ago, Alabama’s coal mining boomed. Industries worldwide gobbled up coal as quickly as they could get it.
Now, coal is being stockpiled, and in some cases, mining is being curtailed because world demand has fallen as coal-fired industries cut production.
Alabama’s coal mines are not immune, although they might be faring a little better than the industry as a whole.
At Jim Walter Resources, which operates two of the country’s deepest underground coal mines near Brookwood, employment remains steady, but now is on a five-day workweek, according to company and union officials.
Daryl Dewberry, international vice president for the United Mine Workers of America District 20, which comprises much of the Southeast, said the union is working closely with the company to keep miners on the job.
“There have been no layoffs at Jim Walter,” he said. “They are attempting to keep as many miners working as possible.”
Jim Walter’s Tuscaloosa County mines and their coal-processing facilities employ about 1,300 people, making the company the state’s biggest coal company.
But in neighboring Jefferson County, another major coal company, Drummond Coal, recently laid off 56 miners at its underground Shoal Creek mine as it moved to a four-day workweek, Dewberry said.
[ Nucor Steel has been accordioning its workweek instead of its workforce for decades.]
That, and the possibility of more layoffs at the state’s mines, has Dewberry concerned.
He believes the nation is at the tail end of the recession, but he said the coal industry often is one of the last industries to be hit by a recession and one of the last to recover.
“We anticipate that we will be taking some hits,” he said.
That nervousness also is being felt by rank-and-file union members.
Gary Youngblood, a contract coal hauler and a member of the Tuscaloosa County Commission, said the coal stockpiles are getting bigger in West Alabama and that is cause for concern.
The coal is not getting shipped like in the past, and if the stockpiles get too high, the coal companies might have to cut their production, he said.
“That affects everybody who works in the coal industry,” said Youngblood, whose family spans three generations in Alabama’s coal mines.
Even if demand for coal picks up, it will take time to reduce the stockpiles, keeping a lid on coal production and its corresponding employment, he said.
Even so, Youngblood said he never regretted his decision to follow his father and uncle into a career in the coal industry nor the fact that he has a son-in-law working as a miner at Jim Walter.
“It has been mighty good to me,” he said of his job. “It was and is a good way to make a living.”
While miners may be eyeing the coal stockpiles, the state’s coal industry is keeping a watchful eye on one of its biggest customers, the global steel industry.
Steelmakers have been hit hard by the recession as manufacturers of everything from automobiles to machinery have cut production and, thus, their orders for steel.
Action like U.S. Steel’s recent decision to shut down much of Fairfield Works in Jefferson County is not good news for coal producers.
Alabama’s coal, more so than coal from other states, fuels the steel industry. The state’s biggest coal seams — which run through Tuscaloosa, Fayette, Jefferson, Walker and Shelby counties — lie at the southern end of the Appalachian coal belt, which covers some of the world’s biggest coal reserves.
About two-thirds of Alabama’s coal is the high-grade metallurgical coal, said Dave Roberson, president of the Alabama Coal Association, a trade association that represents the coal companies and their vendors. The other third of the state’s coal, which comes mostly from surface mines, is sold to companies like Alabama Power for their coal-fired power plants.
Jim Walter’s Brookwood mines have the distinction of being the southernmost coal mines in the Appalachians. They also have the distinction of having some of the world’s best metallurgical coal, which is prized for making steel.
Known as Blue Creek coal, the coal has very low sulfur content with a high heat value, making it ideal for coking — a process that removes coal’s impurities so it can be used in steelmaking.
Most of Jim Walter’s coal is exported, said Dennis Hall, a company spokesman.
“The global steel market is down and that has affected us,” he said.
But Hall noted that Blue Creek coal’s composition makes it more attractive to global steelmakers than other types of coal.
Still, coal shipments are down this year at the Alabama State Port Authority in Mobile.
“We are seeing a little decline in our [coal] exports,” said James K. Lyons, the authority’s director.
“We normally run six to 12 coal ships per month at the port. Right now, we are running at the lower end of that.”
Coal ships are bulk carriers that can haul 40,000 tons to 100,000 tons of coal with the average being in the 70,000-ton to 75,000-ton range, he said.
“Our coal exports are largely metallurgical coal that goes into steelmaking. The steel market globally is down 50 percent, so the amount of coke needed is not quite as high,” Lyons said.
Coal typically accounts for 20 percent to 25 percent of the exports leaving the port and is the port’s biggest commodity, he said. Some coal also is shipped into the port and purchased by coal-burning power plants, Lyons said.
When the coal stockpiles will fall and coal shipments will pick up depends heavily on the recovery of the global economy.
As for the long-term future of the of the coal industry, there is no debate on two points — there is an abundance of coal in the United States and new technology has made its recovery easier.
In 1979, Alabama’s mines produced 12.5 million tons of coal and employed 18,500 unionized miners, said the UMWA’s Dewberry. Today, the state’s mines produce more than 20 million tons of coal with 3,200 unionized miners. There are about 500 non-unionized miners in the state.
“It’s less labor-intensive today, and we can go deeper to get coal we could not get 30 years ago,” Dewberry said of coal mining.
Proposals coming out of Washington for clean-coal technology won’t hurt the industry, he said.
“Coal miners are not afraid of clean coal. We have a good supply of coal,” he said. ... “There’s a lot of things out there that we can do to use coal” with clean-coal technology.
Much of the clean-coal technology has not been put into widespread use and what processes will ultimately be embraced by industries remains unknown.
But not all the proposals coming out of Washington may be good news for the coal industry.
Roberson of the state coal association said “cap and trade” proposals that cover harmful gas emissions by industries will result in higher electric bills for consumers and will hurt the state’s surface mines, whose coal goes to power plants.
Cap and trade, which is being pushed by the Obama administration, would limit the amount of carbon dioxide and other harmful gases that power plants and industries could emit into the air. Carbon dioxide is emitted when coal is burned.
Under cap and trade, industries that emit less gases than their government-issued permit allow could sell credits for their unused emissions to other industries that exceed their allowed emissions.
Reach Patrick Rupinski at 205-722-0213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
5/16/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
5/15/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Posts from an Insane Healthcare System - A Skewed View of Happiness, by Doc Gurley, DocGurley.com.
Forbes this week covered an important, often neglected topic - who’s happiest? Their article, based on a report from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, notes that the happiest countries are the Northern European ones. The reasons Forbes gives for this achievement include a higher per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a shorter work-week (37 hours), and low unemployment (4% versus the U.S.’s 9%). Only in passing was a sense of community mentioned.
Notably absent from this overview, however, was any mention of social safety-nets, or that wealth is more evenly distributed within these countries, or the fact that Northern European countries are those with the most evenly-shared gender roles. The glaring lack of a social safety net [social safety net = uniform access to healthcare, welfare, retraining, education, optimum paternity+maternity leave] is THE single biggest difference between the top scoring countries and the much lower-scorers with similar industrialization, like the U.S.
Pointing out the obvious like that, however, might be too much of a downer for the “per capita” average Forbes readership…
- State to seek 5% cut in school, local aid, By Steven Walters, Amy Hetzner and Larry Sandler of the Journal Sentinel, 5/15 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via jsonline.com - Milwaukee,WI,USA.
Madison - Gov. Jim Doyle said Friday that falling tax collections will force him to propose new cuts of up to 5% in state spending for public schools and aid to local governments.
Aid to public schools has been Doyle's top priority during his 6 1/2 years as governor, and Friday was the first time he said it will have to be reduced.
"There are going to have to be cuts in school aids," Doyle said when he signed a bill rewriting state unemployment compensation laws so that the state can capture federal stimulus funds.
Aid cuts like those envisioned by Doyle could cost Milwaukee Public Schools - the state's largest district - more than $20 million. The cut would cost other districts anywhere from several thousand dollars to several million dollars.
At the same time, Doyle said his plan would include levy limits on districts, which would prevent them from recouping all of the cuts through higher property taxes.
This year, state aid for public schools totals $5.17 billion, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. A 5% cut would cost schools about $258 million, although they are getting federal stimulus money, Doyle noted.
In February, before tax collections in this fiscal year fell by $925 million, or 7%, the governor had proposed a small increase in aid to schools for next year. That month, he also proposed or signed into law tax and fee increases that totaled $2.9 billion.
Now, with estimates of tax collections being reduced every week, Doyle said, "I think you're looking at almost every expenditure in the state - cuts of 5% or more. We would really like to find a way to keep (the cut) at 5%, or under 5%, for schools."
Wisconsin's public schools will spend about $10.8 billion this year. Of that, about $3.45 billion - or 32% - will come from property taxes, according to the Fiscal Bureau.
In a special alert, the Wisconsin Association of School Boards cautioned local boards against ratifying employee agreements, saying that a 3.8% pay raise - an amount that has been considered the minimum annual salary and benefit increase for teachers - might be more than they can afford in the next two school years.
A 5% cut just in the state's equalization aid to schools would have given Milwaukee Public Schools $27.25 million less for the current school year, according to Chris Thiel, legislative policy manager for the school system.
The district receives other aid from the state as reimbursement for such programs as special education, class-size reduction, bilingual education and transportation that could be affected as well.
Like most districts, MPS is setting its budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Districts have had to make staffing decisions to meet deadline requirements for layoff notices.
"Obviously, school districts across the state will have to have significant discussions about how they move forward," Thiel said.
Bryan Ruud, assistant superintendent for business services for the Hamilton School District, said the district ratified a contract with its teachers giving them 3.55% and 3.46% annual salary and benefit increases over the next two years. That happened days before state officials said the deficit had grown to $6.65 billion by mid-2011.
"All you can do is work with the information you have when you have it," Ruud said. "At this point, we still believe what we did was right at the time, trying to get an under-QEO offer done at the time prior to eliminating the QEO."
He was referring to the qualified economic offer law, which Doyle wants to eliminate. That law says school districts can avoid going to arbitration in teacher negotiations if they offer at least a 3.8% increase in salary and benefits.
Doyle said Friday he is working with Democratic legislative leaders on the next round of cuts for all state programs but was not ready to announce what he will recommend.
A 5% cut in state aid to local governments would give them about $48 million less for their 2010 budgets. In February, before the latest drop in tax collections, Doyle had proposed a 1% cut in state aid.
Doyle's comments were met with apprehension from the leaders of Wisconsin's two largest local governments.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker were already in the process of chopping spending this year and preparing drastically scaled-back budgets for next year. They said further cuts to shared revenue would only make that job harder.
The city and county each are looking at $90 million budget shortfalls for 2010.
A straight 5% cut would be $11.5 million of the city's $229.9 million shared revenue allocation, and $2.8 million of the county's $56.3 million.
But those numbers could change significantly, depending on how the state structures the cut.
Doyle's February call for a 1% cut in 2010 would translate into reductions of just $466,906 for the city and $225,982 for the county, thanks to a formula based on property values and population.
Barrett said he hoped Doyle's revised cut would use the same formula. But he said any cut would hurt, because shared revenue has been frozen since 1995 and Milwaukee spends much of its state aid on police and fire protection, public works and libraries.
"It's going to have a very serious impact on people's lives," Barrett said. "I do not want to cut services."
Walker said the governor's comments justified moves Walker made Thursday, when he ordered at least 2,500 of the county's nearly 5,000 workers to cut back to a 35-hour work week. Those cuts would last throughout the rest of this year, unless the economy rebounds, Walker said.
Those furloughs must be approved by the County Board to extend into 2010.
Barrett is looking at unpaid furloughs for half the city's 7,500 full-time workers and layoffs for 1,000 to 1,400 employees, while Walker also has raised the prospect of layoffs.
Depending on the details of the shared revenue cut, city and county officials may need even deeper cuts to balance their budgets, Walker and Barrett said.
- Flexible Work Arrangements: A Smart Strategy In Troubled Times - Formalizing flextime may benefit companies, their employees and take the stigma out of asking for time off, by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Forbes.com - NY,USA.
Rita has never felt so stressed. When her husband Joe, a five-year veteran of a West Coast telecommunications firm, was "let go" last December, his severance package provided a three-month cushion. But by early April household bills were beginning to pile up.
"I'm working as hard as I know how, taking on extra assignments, putting in 12-hour-days--making sure my job as senior manager at a financial services firm isn't at risk," she said in a recent interview.
At the same time, family pressures are also ramping up. As Rita tells it, "Joe is consumed by his job search and unavailable to either me or the kids. Quite honestly I feel more like a single mom than when Joe had a job and spent the day at his office."
Rita is not alone. Eighty percent of the 5.1 million people who have lost their jobs in this recession are men. Many working wives and mothers are now the sole breadwinner. Since women shoulder a disproportionate load of family responsibility and earn 20% less than men, this adds up to a great deal of pressure.
"A little flexibility would be a godsend right now," Rita sighs. "The ability to come home and have dinner with the kids before putting in a late night would make all the difference."
Unfortunately, precisely when the need for flexible work arrangements is going through the roof, it's becoming harder and harder to take it. According to a recent survey from the Center for Work Life-Policy, face time obligations more than doubled between June 2008 and December 2008, from 22% to 55%. Professionals worried about their job security don't feel comfortable asking for a staggered workday or a telecommuting arrangement. Instead, they're chaining themselves to their desks to prove they're indispensable.
In Depth: How To Make Flextime Work For You
A few organizations are bucking the trend, with some local governments leading the way. Two years ago, the city of Houston, Texas, promoted flextime as a way to ease its notoriously congested commuter ways. The "Flex in the City" program was so successful--slashing workers' stress, boosting their performance and saving money--that Houston is reaffirming its commitment with another two-week trial this May.
Across the Atlantic, Gordon Brown's Labour government is putting more teeth into the "Right to Request" flexibility legislation, which empowers parents of children up to age six to ask for flexible scheduling, and ensures that employers consider these requests.
Launched in 2003 as a brainchild of Secretary of Trade and Industry Patricia Hewitt, this program has been a runaway success, with almost a quarter of all eligible employees--some 14 million men and women--asking to work flexibly. The vast majority of requests are being accepted. In April 2007, the law was extended to 2.65 million workers who care for adult relatives, and just last month was further expanded to include 4.5 million employees with responsibility for children up to age 16.
Some leading-edge companies are also newly committing to flex as a smart strategy in tough times. In a difficult economy, flexible work arrangements are a triple win, allowing organizations to cut payroll costs without large-scale staff reductions, boost employee morale and retain top talent so the firm can quickly gear up for new business when the economy turns around.
In January 2009, accounting giant KPMG unveiled its new Flexible Futures program for its 11,000 U.K.-based employees. The options include: A four-day workweek and a 20% reduction in base pay; a four- to 12-week sabbatical with a 30% reduction in base pay; a combination of the two options, or sticking with the status quo.
Positioned as a way for the firm to "come together" in tough times, Flexible Futures is already seen as a winner. "We were trying to deal with reality but also give employees some control over their own destiny," says Rachel Campbell, head of people for KPMG Europe and the architect of Flexible Futures.
To date, 85% of KPMG's U.K.-based employees have signed up. The most popular choice is option No. 3, which features both a shorter workweek and a sabbatical--which gives some sense of how time-starved professionals are these days. According to Campbell, "given this choice structure, the company is looking at an immediate savings opportunity of 15% of payroll costs."
In a similar vein, Citigroup ( C - news - people ) is lifting up flexible work with Citi Work Strategies. The program has two elements: Flexible Work Strategies encourages job sharing, flexible start and end times, and compressed work weeks. As of February 2009 it's complemented by Citi's Alternative Workplace Strategies, a push to provide a greener workplace through office-sharing and remote work. Citi hopes these programs will reduce the company's need for office space by 15% over the next several years. The benefits to employees: incalculable.
Formalizing flextime has one other unsung but important consequence: It takes the stigma out of asking for time off. Knowing that there's some give in the workplace--and not all take--does powerful things for women's earning power and career advancement prospects. That may be the biggest benefit of all.
Sylvia Ann Hewlett is an economist and the founding president of the Center for Work-Life Policy, a nonprofit think tank, where she leads the "Hidden Brain Drain " Task Force. She is the author of nine nonfiction books--including Off-Ramps and On-Ramps and Top Talent: Keeping Performance Up When Business Is Down (forthcoming).
- BASF to bring short-time work program in Ludwigshafen, fibre2fashion.com/news.
BASF SE is introducing short-time work in the coming months for about 1,000 employees in 20 production plants and associated service units at its site in Ludwigshafen. These measures are necessary mainly at production units for pigments, intermediates, petrochemicals and inorganics. Most of the 1,000 employees will start working short time in June and July; a smaller number will follow in August and September.
As announced in April, BASF has assessed the workload at the production plants at the site in the past few weeks. Based on this assessment and the provisional agreement made with the Works Council in January, discussions with the responsible employee representatives were held to determine where, to what extent and which form of short-time work should be introduced.
The number of hours worked will be reduced by between 20 to 100 percent and for up to four months according to the circumstances at the individual plants. Irrespective of the reduction in working hours, employees will receive a net wage of approximately 90 percent as a result of short-time work compensation provided by the German government as well as a payment from the company under the terms of the collective wage agreement for the chemical industry. Rapid reintroduction of normal working hours is possible at any time, should demand for BASF products pick up.
“Capacity utilization rates at many plants have remained very low since the beginning of the year, and we do not expect any improvement over the summer months,” said Dr. Harald Schwager, member of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF SE responsible for Human Resources and head of the company’s Ludwigshafen site.
“Short-time work is an appropriate measure to temporarily bridge the decline in orders.
[Actually, it's going to be permanent - along Timesizing lines - you can't keep downsizing in response to technology and still expect to keep your markets; you must timesize and keep people employed and spending, however short a "full time" workweek that may take.]
We are also continuing to use the advantages offered by our Verbund and are temporarily transferring employees to other units or using flexible time to respond to the decline in work volume. Without these measures, short-time work would have already been introduced for thousands of BASF employees in Ludwigshafen.”
As already communicated, the company is also examining further possible measures in the event that business does not improve in the second half of the year. Currently, 5,200 employees from BASF Group companies at 19 sites in Europe are already working short time (including former Ciba sites.)
- Scania to run four-day work week from June, Reuters.com - USA.
* Scania says 12,000 staff to move to four-day work week
* Says to implement four-day week for six months from June
* Rough estimate is will cut costs by 300-400 mln SEK-spox
(Adds more details, background, spokesman's comment)
STOCKHOLM - Truckmaker Scania (SCVb.ST) said on Friday it would introduce a four-day working week and related pay cut for 12,000 employees next month in its Swedish operations as it seeks to adjust to the plunge in market demand.
Scania said in a statement the shorter working hours would last for a six-month period. The announcement came after the main workers' union at the company earlier this week agreed to the measures as a way to stave off layoffs.
"Scania undertakes not to issue any lay-off notice during the period of the agreement," the company said.
In April Scania proposed shortening the working week by 20 percent and cutting salaries by 10 percent to slash costs in the face of an unprecedented fall in market demand due to the financial crisis and ensuing economic downturn.
"The four-day week is a key element of Scania's strategy to preserve the collective competency of the company despite a very sharp decline in market demand," the company said on Friday.
"Scania has already introduced various forms of working hour reductions for more than 2,000 employees in the Netherlands, France, Germany and elsewhere," it added.
A Scania spokesman said estimates that the measures would cut costs at the company ... between 300 million and 400 million Swedish crowns ($38 million to $51 million) were good 'ballpark' figures. ($1=7.862 Swedish crown).
5/14/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- CV employees face pay cut, furlough or elimination of jobs, By Jerry Herrmann, 5/13 PrescottDailyCourier.com via Sun Shopper - Prescott,AZ,USA.
Do the Town of Chino Valley's employees favor a 10 percent pay cut or the elimination of a number of positions?
The town council Tuesday night directed Town Manager Jerry Stricklin to have the town's department heads poll their employees and bring the results back to the council at its regular council meeting at 6 p.m. today, May 14, in the Council Chambers at 1020 W. Palomino Road.
Code Enforcement Officer Mike Bovee said he favors a pay cut "because everyone needs their job."
At its continued budget study session Tuesday, the council learned town staff had cut about $111,000 off the $824,417 deficit in the 2009-2010's proposed $7,053,562 general fund budget.
Judi Schafman, Administrative Services director, said this means the council still must find $713,183 to balance the proposed general fund budget.
Vice Mayor Joel Baker asked if she had answers to his questions on the various savings available through different options.
Schafman said while the insurance premiums for the employees amount to nearly $1 million, the town pays only $700,000. The employees pay the other $300,000.
Offering employees the basic insurance plan only next year is not an option, she said, because the other members in the Yavapai Combined Trust (Prescott, Yavapai College and Yavapai County) already have approved the premium insurance plan for their employees.
Also, providing the basic insurance plan with the employee having the option to "buy up" to the premium plan is not an option, she said.
Options available to the council on insurance coverage and savings, she said, include:
• Cancel short term disability insurance - $17,183.
• No dependent coverage (the town currently pays 35 percent of dependents coverage) - $91,764.
• Reduce the town's share of dependent coverage premiums from 35 to 25 percent - $26,208.
• No dental insurance - $60,072.
• No vision insurance - $15,840.
If the council were to take all those options, she said, it could save $184,859.
Schafman said if the council approved a furlough equaling 10 percent of each employee's salary it could save $450,000.
Baker said if the council canceled all the town's participation in the employees' insurance premiums and did the furlough, the council needs to come up with only $88,000 to balance the budget.
When some members of the council asked how the furlough would work, Schafman said all they are proposing is a 10 percent decrease in employees' cost. The council must decide how to accomplish that, she said.
Some options include a 10 percent pay cut or one day off per pay period. Schafman said police can't take a furlough.
She said if the council decides on a pay cut, it must decide if the standard workweek is going to remain at 40 hours or go down to 36 hours. Police officers, she said, must work 40 hours to stay in the state retirement system even if their employer cuts their pay 10 percent.
[Not if you hire more police officers and divvy up the time.]
Pat Clingman, deputy Development Services director, said all of the town's employees should work the same number of hours.
Mayor Karen Fann asked, "Should 100 percent of the $713,000 in cuts fall on the employees' backs?"
Schafman said, "We took a hard look at our operating costs last year. Pretty soon there will be no operations budget to cut. All that will be left is employees."
Fann then asked about cell phone savings.
Chino Valley Police Commander Mark Garcia said the police department already has returned three of its six cell phones and that he is turning his in Wednesday.
Schafman said the town can cut down to all but a few cell phones.
- [Here's what happens when you lose track of time and your CEO doesn't -]
Stressed workers have unused vacation days - Untaken time worth $6.03 billion, By Kim Covert, Canwest News Service via Ottawa Citizen, D1.
Need a vacation? Join the crowd.
Nearly 25 per cent of Canadians aren't taking the full number of vacation days they've been allotted, according to an online Harris/ Decima poll conducted for Expedia.ca, leaving 34 million vacation days unused every year.
That amounts to workers handing back about $6.03 billion in wages annually to their employers, Expedia.ca, an online travel agency, said Wednesday.
Not surprisingly, 42 per cent of poll respondents said they're feeling stressed, tired and vacation-deprived -- up from 33 per cent in 2008.
"The stress associated with the current economy and impact on the workplace makes the need for time away from work even more important," said Beverly Beuermann-King, an Ontario stress and wellness expert who says taking a vacation is an investment in one's health.
So if 41 per cent of respondents say they're more productive when they come back from their holidays, and 54 per cent say they feel rejuvenated and reconnected to their personal lives after a break, why wouldn't a person take a vacation?
"The economy has put people in a position where they don't feel like they can take vacation," said Karen Seward, a senior vice-president with workplace health consulting firm Shepell-fgi.
"It makes it impossible for people ... to know that they can come back and everything will be fine."
Thirteen per cent of poll respondents said their work is their life and they're too busy to get away. Others feel guilty about taking time off work; others are holding off on taking expensive vacations due to the state of the economy.
Some will only go with their electronic devices at hand. According to poll results released Wednesday by The Creative Group, an employee placement firm, 61 per cent of marketing and advertising executives said they check in with work at least once a day while on break. Only eight per cent said they never check in while on vacation.
Even though companies benefit financially from their employees leaving vacation days on the table, the result -- a burned-out staff -- can end up costing them, too, said Seward.
"We're seeing increasing rates of burnout, stress," said Seward, whose company provides workplace health and wellness programs. "Mental nervous disorders is now the top claim for disability that insurance carriers are seeing and a lot of it is people who don't know how to take a break.
"We're spending all this money on health and wellness initiatives, (but) one of the best health and wellness initiatives is encouraging people to take the time," said Seward.
Canadians receive, on average, 18.7 vacation days each year, according to the Expedia.ca report -- with men generally being allotted an average of 20.4 days, while women get 16.86 -- but will only take about 16.7 of them. Of the days they do take, just under half will be used for fun and relaxation.
The rest, 8.61 days, will be spent taking care of personal business -- including weddings, family events, religious observances and medical appointments.
[Work extra hours and screw yourself - and it ain't just here ...]
- Short on bonuses and high on stress, By JOYCE HOOI, AsiaOne.com - Singapore.
The typical Singaporean professional is cowering at his desk, a sneezing and overworked heap, if the numbers are to be believed.
The latest Robert Half survey indicates that local professionals have gotten the shortest end of the stick globally, being on the receiving end of cost-cutting and management ineptitude in bad times.
Some 59 per cent of respondents in Singapore reported bonuses being cut or lowered - the highest globally. Coming in a distant second in the region is Hong Kong, with 42 per cent.
Local firms have also reported among the highest incidents of hiring freezes, with 55 per cent of firms no longer hiring in view of the economic climate, compared to the global average of 42 per cent.
Even as local companies trim the fat, with budget cuts being cited as the main reason for shrinking finance and accounting teams, employees in Singapore who are already overworked will have no respite. Some 55 per cent of local respondents do not expect their employers to give them the option of shorter work-weeks in order to cut costs.
None of this bodes well for workplace stress levels, with 69 per cent of local employees foreseeing an increase in stress for the rest of the year, second globally only to Japan, where 71 per cent of respondents feel the same way.
'We are living in very uncertain times and I would not be surprised if visits to psychologists increase, because some people cannot handle the stress,' said Paul Heng, managing director of Next Career Consulting.
Even if their immune systems were to fall prey to stress, employees in Singapore will not be calling in sick. The top three reasons cited by local respondents for coming in to work despite being ill are all fear-related: the fear of falling behind on work; being perceived by superiors or peers as not working hard; and having too many sick days count against them.
However, what some might call 'fear', others call 'character-building'.
'There are junior employees in the finance and accounting industries who have lived only through upswings and take sick leave if they so much as have a sniffle. The current situation will improve their work ethic, resilience and productivity,' said Tulika Tripathi, managing director of Michael Page Singapore.
When employees are not at work, they are thinking about it. Sixty-five per cent of respondents here spend a daily average of 30 minutes or more on work emails after work hours, against the global average of 57 per cent.
All this is par for the course in this era, according to Mr Heng. 'It is necessary especially when you work for global companies with operations in different timezones. You still have to answer emails at 11pm,' he said.
Such high levels of strain being borne by employees will have negative implications for firms, warns Tim Hird, managing director of Robert Half Singapore.
'Very often, cost-reduction measures that cause undue pressure to workers not only lead to a loss in valuable talent, but also adversely impact the company's overall performance and eventually its bottom line,' said Mr Hird.
With quality of life coming under siege for the white-collar worker in Singapore, it is no wonder that what they crave most is non-monetary in nature. 'Open and honest communication' and 'manageable staff workloads' were the top two most desired elements for improving employee morale, with 34 per cent and 19 per cent of employees voting for them, respectively.
The survey polled 6,167 managers across 20 countries, 202 of whom were based in Singapore.
This article was first published in The Business Times.
5/13/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Mason City cement company cuts work week, AP via ChicagoTribune.com - United States.
MASON CITY, Iowa - A Mason City cement company has cut most of its employees' work week to avoid layoffs.
Officials with Lehigh Cement Co. say the reduction reflects a deceased national demand for cement and building products. About 100 employees are affected. Their work week was cut to 32 hours on Monday.
Jeff Sieg of the company's parent company, Lehigh Hanson Inc. of Texas, says the reduction is temporary and workers will return to normal working schedules as production increases.
Another cement company in Mason City, Holcim Cement, will stop production in August. The company, which has 165 employees, is laying off workers in stages leading up to the closing.
- $1 million not enough for county - Commissioners deem savings from proposed 4-day week too small, By MEREDITH SOMERS, SoMdNews.com - Waldorf,MD,USA.
What would it have to save to convince the Charles County commissioners to close county offices for a three-day weekend?
Apparently more than $1 million.
During the commissioners' meeting last week, four of the five commissioners voted to defeat a bill which would have introduced a two-year pilot program for an adjusted work schedule for county employees. The four-day work week would have saved the county about $1.5 million, according to analysis by county financial staff.
"I'm simply not prepared today to vote on this proposal," said Commissioner Reuben B. Collins II (D), who chose to abstain from the vote.
The following day, Collins elaborated on his reason for not voting on the piece of legislation.
"I was still in the process of doing research on the issue and looking at what other jurisdictions have done or are planning to do," Collins said. "But the commissioners had strong arguments, and I certainly understood them. The bottom line is this wouldn't be a cure-all, and going into the next budget cycle we'll still be dealing with potential deficit issues."
The adjusted work schedule bill was introduced in early spring as a way to cut costs in the county's budget.
"This was a creative alternative to a furlough that gives something back to employees," said county Budget Director David Eicholtz.
Eicholtz told the commissioners that 72 percent of the operating budget goes toward employee wages and benefits. The remaining 28 percent was the area that took the 3 percent cut when the county tightened its purse strings, but with the financial forecast still gloomy, "the next place to look is those wages and benefits."
While county employees currently work 37.5 hours each week, under the adjusted work schedule that number would be lowered to 36 hours, not including four 30-minute lunch breaks.
Scheduled to begin July 1, 2009, and run through the last day of June 2011, the four-day workweek would have had county offices open 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. County workers in emergency service departments and other offices that need to remain open to serve residents five days a week would have operated on a rotating schedule.
During a public hearing on the bill in early April, some county employees expressed their support for the adjusted schedule, saying they would prefer a shortened work week to having fellow staff members cut from the payroll.
Others wondered why the county was taking such drastic measures to save only $1 million for one year.
"I had serious reservations for the proposal at the [commissioners'] work session," said Commissioner Gary V. Hodge (D). "Does it solve the problem? Does the proposal serve the people? I don't believe [the schedule] meets that test. It became evident to me that the financial benefit was not adequate to meet the challenges we have."
Hodge offered the motion to defeat the bill, which was supported by commissioners' Vice President Edith J. Patterson (D).
She said the county's fiscal woes and subsequent suggestions for solutions were "certainly not over," a view also shared by commissioners' President F. Wayne Cooper (D).
"We don't like to promise people things if we can't keep our word," Cooper said. "We'll need to look at other alternative ways [to save money] if things keep getting worse and worse."
[Win some, lose some - some people in some situations just don't get it. You can't keep injecting worksaving technology against a frozen 1940 workweek and still maintain employment and spending and markets.]
- Bigger isn't better -- A return to booming economic growth would put the world back on the path to disaster -- it's time for a radical rethinking, By Peter A. Victor, OttawaCitizen.com (article flagged by colleague Jane Gibson).
There's nothing like a good crisis to make us rethink old ideas. The Depression of the 1930s led to the rejection of the prevailing idea that unemployment would right itself if only people would work for lower wages. Governments could do very little to help.
These ideas were overthrown by experience and by the invention of modern macro economics by British economist, John Maynard Keynes. By the end of the Second World War, most western governments had adopted Keynesian economic policies designed to ensure that total expenditures were sufficient to maintain full employment.
Keynesian economists soon discovered that full employment today meant a bigger economy tomorrow because some of the investment expenditures required to keep unemployment down -- on infrastructure, buildings and equipment -- also expanded the productive capacity of the economy. So does an expanding population and labour force. Initially, governments pursued economic growth to meet the more pressing concern of maintaining full employment, but this soon changed. In the 1950s, economic growth became the No. 1 economic policy objective of governments and all others, such as productivity, innovation, free trade, competitiveness, immigration, even education, became a means to that end.
Until a year or so ago all seemed to be going reasonably well. Then came the breakdown in the financial sector followed quickly by a recession that, through globalization, spread farther and faster than swine flu. Now governments are congratulating themselves for acting together to stimulate spending to get their economies back on course, much as Keynes might have recommended.
But times have changed since his day. World population has increased almost three times, world economic output has increased 10 times and with this massive expansion of the human presence on earth, we are confronting limits to the availability of cheap energy, to fresh water, and to the capacity of the atmosphere to absorb increasing emissions of greenhouse gases. At the same time we are destroying the habitat of numerous species of flora and fauna and the security of our own food supplies is threatened.
It is time to rethink the old idea that the solution to all our problems lies in the incessant expansion of the economy. Rich countries like Canada should explore alternatives, especially if poorer countries are to benefit from economic growth for a while in a world increasingly constrained by biophysical limits.
Some deny or simply ignore these limits and argue that economic growth in rich countries is necessary to stimulate growth in poorer ones. Others say that with "green" growth we can expand economic output as we reduce the demands we place on nature through more efficient production, better designed products, fewer goods and more services, compact urban forms, and organic agriculture.
While these measures may well help in a transition they are an unlikely prescription for the long term. What is required is a radical rethinking of our economies and their relation to the natural world.
Although no 21st-century Keynes has emerged to prepare the intellectual ground for such a change in thinking, we do have a body of knowledge built up over many decades and now thriving under the name of "ecological economics."
Ecological economists understand economies to be subsystems of the earth ecosystem, sustained by a flow of materials and energy from and back to the larger system in which they are embedded. It is understandable that when these flows were small relative to the earth they could be ignored, as they have been in much of mainstream economics. Economists are not alone in treating the economy as a self-contained, free standing system largely independent of its environmental setting. It is a widely held view that environmental protection is just one among multiple competing interests to be traded off against the economy.
And anyway, this mainstream perspective teaches that if resource and environmental constraints are encountered, scarcities will be signalled by increases in prices that will induce a variety of beneficial changes in behaviour and technology. Should this system of scarcity-price-response fail then economists can estimate "shadow" prices which can be imposed directly through taxes or used indirectly through policies based on cost-benefit analysis to fix the problem.
To ecological economists, this is an inadequate response to the myriad problems of resource depletion, environmental contamination and habitat destruction confronting humanity in the 21st century. They question the pursuit of endless economic growth and contemplate a very different kind of future.
In my own work, I have examined whether and under what conditions a country like Canada could have full employment, no poverty, much reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and maintain fiscal balance, without relying on economic growth. Using a comparatively simple model of the Canadian economy I have explored scenarios in which these objectives are met. The ingredients for success include a shorter work year to reduce unemployment yet retain the advantages of technological progress, a carbon price to discourage greenhouse gas emissions, and more generous anti-poverty programs.
In such an economy, success would not be judged by the rate of economic growth but by more meaningful measures of personal and community well-being. We would adjust to strict limits on our use of materials, energy, land and waste, guided by prices that provide more accurate information about real rather than contrived scarcities. We would enjoy more services and fewer but more durable and repairable products, and we would value use over status when deciding what to buy.
Rampant consumerism would be history, advertising would be more informative and less persuasive, and new technologies would be better screened to avoid problems to be fixed later, if at all. Infrastructure, buildings and equipment would be more efficient in their use of energy and we would think and act more locally and less globally. With more free time at our disposal we would educate ourselves and our children for life not just work.
Is all this simply wishful thinking of a sort that flourishes in troubled times? I think not. The undercurrent of discontent with modern life is rich with ideas for a better future, one that is not dependent on economic growth.
For example, in March of this year the U.K.'s Sustainable Development Commission delivered its report "Prosperity Without Growth?" to the British government endorsing and amplifying many of the ideas expressed here. The Centre for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy based in the United States has obtained more than 3,000 signatures on its position statement designed to help change the goal of the economy from growth to sustainability.
At the local level, Transition Towns have spread in less than four years from Britain to many countries including Canada, to raise awareness of sustainable living and to build local resilience in response to the combined threats of peak oil and climate change. Even mainstream economists are moving with the tide.
Nobel Laureate economist Robert Solow said last year: "It is possible that the U.S. and Europe will find that ... either continued growth will be too destructive to the environment and they are too dependent on scarce natural resources, or that they would rather use increasing productivity in the form of leisure." Let's add Canada to the list and go from there.
Economist Peter A. Victor is a professor of environmental studies at York University and author of Managing without Growth: Slower by Design, not Disaster.
5/12/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Lincoln Elec Experiences Global Decline In Welding-Product Sales, Dow Jones via Wall Street Journal via online.wsj.com - USA.
[*Lincoln Electric has been jerking around its workweek instead of its workforce ever since 1959 and as a result, it has the highest pay, highest morale, highest productivity, highest competitiveness and highest survivability in the American rust belt.]
CLEVELAND -- Lincoln Electric Holdings Inc. (LECO) is experiencing a world-wide decline in sales of welding products, reflecting a dramatic drop in durable goods manufacturing, construction and natural resource extraction, company officials told Dow Jones Newswires.
"We are seeing a slower rate of decline, but it is too early to say whether world economies have hit bottom," said John M. Stropki, chairman and chief executive officer.
Recovery probably will begin in Asia and the Middle East, he said, and the economies of Western Europe probably will be the last to improve.
The drop in business began in November for Lincoln, and was unusually abrupt, said Vincent K. Petrella, senior vice president and chief financial officer.
"Industrial companies have become much more sophisticated about managing the supply chain," Petrella said, and their sharp curtailment of orders to reduce inventories produced a cascading cutback in industrial activity.
"It's amazing how synchronized this thing has been," Petrella said. "The whole world has come down."
Lincoln management took aggressive action to cut costs, Stropki and Petrella said, aided by several tools built into Lincoln's long-term business plan.
As a result, Lincoln reported strongly positive cash flow in the first quarter and a modest profit excluding rationalization charges, despite a nearly 34% drop in sales. Sales fell to $411.8 million from $620.2 million a year earlier.
Sales of welding machines have been hit hardest and are down more than 40%, Petrella said, but sales of welding rods, wire and other consumables also are off sharply.
Because of $11.7 million of charges, Lincoln reported a first quarter net loss of $3.6 million, or 8 cents a share, compared with net income of $53.5 million, or $1.24 a share, a year earlier.
Cash flow from operations increased to $71.7 million in the quarter, a gain of 6.1% from a year earlier.
Officials declined to make any estimates of full-year results, in keeping with long-standing company policy.
Lincoln in 2008 had record profits of $212.3 million, or $4.93 a share, on record sales of $2.48 billion.
When sales dropped, Lincoln management reduced the work week for hourly workers to 32 hours, from the 40 to 45 hours employees previously worked, Petrella said, an action possible because Lincoln plants aren't unionized.
"The ability to reduce work hours was one of the most powerful tools" in adjusting production to demand, he said.
Management also offered voluntary separation with severance pay to the whole U.S. work force, Petrella said, and more than 300 of the about 3,000 U.S. employees took the offer.
Base pay of salaried workers was reduced by 5%, he said, and members of management took a 10% cut.
The company's employee bonus plan is automatically reducing employment costs, Petrella said. Most Lincoln employees usually earn a substantial portion of their compensation from the bonus plan. In 2008, the average bonus added 60% to base pay, with an employee earning base pay of $50,000 actually receiving $80,000.
The bonus pool is based on Lincoln's earnings before interest and taxes, he said. Bonuses are paid about year-end, Petrella said, but the amount accrued for the first quarter was $22 million lower than a year earlier.
Sales of products for use in the U.S. and Canada accounted for only 42% of Lincoln's 2008 total. Europe bought 26%, Asia 22% and Latin America 10%.
Lincoln expanded rapidly in Asia in the last few years, and is making a major move despite the downturn. Lincoln in March agreed to buy the remaining 52% of Jinzhou Jin Tai Welding & Metal Co., Ltd., a jointly owned producer of welding wire based in Jinzhou, China.
The Chinese company had sales last year of about $200 million, mainly in China, Petrella said. The transaction is expected to be completed early in the third quarter.
Lincoln is beginning production at a new welding electrode plant in Chennai, India, Stropki said, reflecting confidence in growth of the Indian market.
Capital spending will decline to between $45 million and $55 million, Petrella said, from $72 million in 2008.
Lincoln has $300 million of cash, almost three times its debt of $109 million, Petrella said, and expects strongly positive cash flow for 2009.
That financial strength will enable Lincoln to make acquisitions, develop new products and emerge from recession with a larger global market share, Stropki and Petrella said.
-By Ralph E. Winter, For Dow Jones Newswires; 201-938-4370
- ArcelorMittal workers attack HQ, By AOIFE WHITE, The Associated Press via WashingtonPost.com - United States.
LUXEMBOURG -- Steel workers attacked ArcelorMittal's Luxembourg headquarters Tuesday during the company's annual shareholders meeting, setting off smoke bombs and breaking through the front door to protest temporary layoffs during the economic slump.
Some of the 1,000 workers from Belgium and France hurled cobblestones and steel fencing at the building, smashing windows and tearing off a steel molding from the ornate 1920s exterior.
Riot police lined up to protect the head office of the world's biggest steel maker. One protester broke into the building and was immediately captured by police. Between 20 and 30 others fought police at the entrance, waiting several hours for him to be released.
Journalists were told to leave the ground floor and leave from a back entrance as smoke filled the halls. But the protest did not affect the shareholder meeting and lunch, which continued on an upper floor.
Buses had brought the workers from plants in northern France and from Charleroi and Liege in southern Belgium.
ArcelorMittal has cut production by half as the steel industry rapidly went from boom to bust late last year. The company has so far avoided major permanent layoffs but is offering voluntary redundancy to 9,000 of its 315,000 staff around the world. Salaries are frozen and board members have volunteered a 15-percent pay cut. Some senior staff are also taking a 10-percent pay cut.
It expects global steel demand to sink by 15 to 20 percent this year with growth in India and China failing to compensate for a major U.S. and European recession.
It has shuttered plants across the world, laid off temporary workers and put full-time workers on reduced pay during the output freeze.
ArcelorMittal chief executive Lakshmi Mittal said the cutbacks were a "temporary suspension of production in view of the market conditions" and that he expected sales to recover in the second half of this year.
"Customers have stopped buying steel and are using up their current inventory," he told shareholders. "There is absolutely no point continuing to produce what we know we cannot sell."
Deciding which plants would reopen first would depend on how cost-competitive they are, he said.
European trade unions warned Monday that tensions among workers were high because the company won't give firm details on when shuttered plants would restart. It said ArcelorMittal management walked out of talks this month on restarting a blast furnace in Liege.
Germany's largest steelmaker ThyssenKrupp AG said Friday it plans to cut up to 2,000 jobs at its seven plants in Germany by 2011. It employs nearly 200,000 people worldwide.
The European steel federation says that one in six steel workers in the region have lost their jobs or are working shorter hours since the start of the economic crisis. It claims some 72,000 jobs or 17 percent of the European Union's 440,000-strong steel work force have been hit by the downturn.
[*Nucor Steel in the USA is our other big case study of a company jerking around its workweek instead of its workforce.]
5/11/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Layoffs or furloughs? - Shedding some light on the layoff versus furlough debate, By Edward Russell, FinanceAsia - Hong Kong.
The economic crisis is certainly keeping human resources departments busy. Judging by the headlines, HR teams at corporations and banks cannot be taking many days off as they try to solve the problem of how to cut payrolls to save the organisation without losing their best people in the process.
For banks, layoffs appear to be the answer. "I don't know of a single person who is simply taking time off from their firm. Everybody is being laid off," said one unemployed banker.
If this is true, it would seem the financial services industry is in for a permanent change. According to HR research, layoffs are best suited for industries in the midst of change; the ones whose future prospects are unknown except for the fact that they will be significantly altered from the past.
Furloughs are another story. Varying in style from voluntary or mandatory unpaid leave to a reduced work-week -- of course coupled with a pro rata pay cut -- they allow an organisation to cut costs without necessarily reducing headcount. Research indicates that furloughs are best suited for industries which believe business will return to earlier levels after a prolonged slowdown.
[And that is exactly why furloughs, especially reduced workweeks, are best suited for entire economies "which believe business will return to earlier levels after a prolonged slowdown." Keep laying off and you'll just prolong the slowdown.]
"The concept of a job loss is paralysing," said Russell Huntington, Asia-Pacific director of the Human Capital Group at Watson Wyatt. He explained that layoffs hurt employees' trust in an organisation, impacting on productivity and morale, and leading potentially to the flight of the high performers they want to keep.
[So why do so many CEOs love layoffs and job losses for a few, then a few more, then a few more, then..., rather than just hourscuts for all?]
Furloughs are not necessarily the silver bullet though.
[Yes they are - in the form of reduced workweeks.]
"With a furlough there is no clear end.
[That's the whole beauty of reduced workweeks - they're indefinitely sustainable. Layoffs have a clear end - when you've laid off your entire workforce and destroyed your company - and your economy.]
The increased uncertainty associated with time off work, not knowing what the future holds, can make it very difficult for an employee to deal with", said Graham Millington, a UK-based executive coach and leadership consultant.
[Oh come ON! - the increased uncertainty associated with NO JOB is much greater- and much more paralyzing to consumers.]
In a blog, one senior banker said that he would not accept a pay cut or alternative cost cutting measure -- even if that meant losing his job -- because it "breeds resentment and will merely serve to postpone the inevitable".
[Then can this deathwisher.]
However, for those who need the income, a furlough represents a reprieve, if only temporarily, from the immediate loss of income and security associated with a layoff. "For me personally, I think a furlough would have been a worse solution," said a laid-off UBS banker. "If I had more commitments, say a mortgage or dependents, then the furlough option would have been more relevant".
[Well, most people DO have more commitments - where is this reporter getting there atypical interviewees??]
Complicating the whole issue is culture. "The Anglo/American way to deal with a crisis is a preference to axe jobs," said Huntington. "In Asia there is a sense of social responsibility, an assumption that we all suffer together rather than having some of us suffer the ultimate."
[That's why Asia is finally rising and Anglo-America is finally declining.]
A good example is the airline industry. In the US, airlines cut a total of 27,500 jobs between February 2008 and February 2009. But when Mumbai-based Jet Airways announced 1,900 layoffs last fall, the airline was forced to rescind them after political and union pressure.
[And the Indian economy benefited accordingly and did not sink as percentage-far as the US & UK economies.]
Earlier this year, after posting a 222% drop in its 2008 profit, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways announced a voluntary unpaid leave scheme for all of its 17,000 employees. "Everyone in my department was expecting at least four weeks unpaid leave but it's only two," said one Cathay Pacific employee. "I'm happier today than over the past few weeks."
Interestingly, 85% of the Hong Kong-based ground crew have opted to take the unpaid leave scheme, while only 14% of pilots have signed on for the same scheme.
[The richer you get, the less you give a damn about anyone else.]
When asked why some banks operating in the region have resorted to layoffs despite Asia's preference for communal cost-cutting solutions, Huntington retorted, "And how many of those companies are headquartered in Asia?" Very few.
Both layoffs and furloughs have their pluses and minuses but neither is arguably better.
[Oh come on - they're like suicide vs. belt-tightening.]
"A redundancy is an opportunity to embrace the need to change and learn new skills," Millington said.
[Oh yeah, with what money? with food from where? This birdbrain's brain has moved all the way from "the happy slave" of the 1800s to "the happy homeless" of the 2000s.]
"(But) you can also use a furlough to try out new ideas and see whether you'd rather be doing something different in your career."
[So the layoff/redundancy here would be...???]
As for the thousands of financial industry employees cut loose by the industry's contraction, many seem, ironically, to be doing better than expected. "I've found people's reaction to redundancy is split 50-50," said the former UBS banker. "Half find it a relief and half feel pressure to get back into the market. It gave me the opportunity to take a step back and get my feet on the ground. I travelled to 15 countries and have gone back to school for a masters in design studies," he said. "The redundancy is the best thing that ever happened to me."
[So nice to be rich when you're laid off - but how many are this atypical? Again, this reporter has irrelevant unusual interviewees = another happytalker for the status quo, shouting the tiniest good news, ignoring the hugest bad.]
- [Here's a textbook example of the suicidal current caught by the subtitle of Ben Hunnicutt's wonderful worktime history of the Great Depression, "Work Without End: Abandoning Shorter Hours for the Right to Work" -]
Qantas workers cop longer hours, by Daniel Hurst, BrisbaneTimes.com - Brisbane,Queensland,Australia.
More than 500 Qantas heavy maintenance workers in Brisbane have accepted they will have to work longer hours in return for job security, the union says.
[And since there's no job security in the general surplus of labor that this approach creates, and no good wages, and no robust spending and consumer markets, these 500 Qantas heavy maintenance workers have just pushed the Australian and world economies a little closer to meltdown and their union is worse than useless - it is suicidal.]
At a time when recession-hit companies are announcing job losses on a daily basis, Qantas today promised workers at its $85 million heavy maintenance facility that their positions will not evaporate as the airline phases out its Boeing 767 fleet.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the 510 existing workers would take care of the airline's growing Airbus A330 fleet from early next year.
This work is currently performed in the Philippines.
"We have reached an agreement that will deliver workplace flexibility and greater job security," Mr Joyce said this morning.
"It's a win for Queensland, it's a win for Brisbane, it's a win for Qantas and it's a win for the future of aircraft engineering jobs in this country."
The announcement comes one month after the national airline revealed it would sack 500 management employees, cut capacity by 5 per cent and defer aircraft orders in response to a "rapid and significant deterioration of trading conditions".
Qantas said the cuts would affect 1,250 full-time equivalent positions, through either redundancies or forced annual leave, long service leave, attrition, redeployment, leave without pay or a move to part-time work or job-sharing.
Today, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union site convenor Stuart Cook said workers at the Brisbane heavy maintenance facility had agreed to work 10-hour shifts to prevent their positions from being sent overseas.
Employees would have to get used to working from 5.30am to 3.30pm or from 3.30pm to 1.30am, Mr Cook said.
"We had a spread of hours which were a lot shorter previously; now you'll start work earlier and leave later, although you have more days off in between," he said.
Mr Cook said negotiations involved a lot of "argy bargy", but workers had secured 3 per cent annual pay rises.
"We'd have to say it was probably the best deal we could have done in these times," he said.
"As we've said previously, it's been very challenging, we've been negotiating for quite some time with the company.
"The current economic environment has certainly changed the views of a lot of members.
"There's a lot of changes to make around lifestyle and family, but in the end the members felt that was the best way to go."
Premier Anna Bligh said the Queensland Government had persuaded the airline to establish the $85 million heavy maintenance facility in Brisbane in 2005, but workers faced an uncertain future as the airline phased out its Boeing 767 fleet.
Ms Bligh said she had met with Qantas last year and was told there was a good chance heavy maintenance work on the A330 fleet would be done overseas, but the company and employees had since come to an agreement.
Ms Bligh said newspapers were full of bad news about job losses because the global recession was severely affecting job security.
"I want to congratulate Qantas for swimming against the tide," she said during a visit to the facility.
"This is good news in tough times and good news has been hard to come by."
Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes said the decision to maintain the Airbus fleet in Brisbane rather than the Philippines would help Australia protect its "skill base".
The Qantas Group operates 22 A330 aircraft, including six Jetstar A330-200s, and expects to take delivery of an additional two A330s in the next year.
In a statement, the company says 80 to 90 per cent of heavy maintenance work is carried out in Australia, while the work that is carried out offshore "is mainly overflow work".
5/10/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Cut hours, not employees, By Tim Holt – 5/08 The Christian Science Monitor via news.yahoo.com via blogger 1cooldude, 5/10 The Lounge, Zeropaid Forums via zeropaid.com/bbs.
Dunsmuir, Calif. – One of the more intriguing chapters in labor history involves a decision by the Kellogg Company in 1930 to cut workers' hours from a 40- to a 30-hour week. We could learn a thing or two from this example.
At the outset of the Depression, the company figured this would create 300 more jobs. Company President Lewis Brown also hoped it would give workers more time to spend with their families and to participate in their communities, and that it would lead to "higher standards" in school and civic life.
Yes, the president of a major US corporation actually said that, and apparently meant it.
Workers did use their extra time off for gardening, visiting libraries, and family activities, according to reporters' accounts, a 1996 book titled "Kellogg's Six-Hour Day" [by Benjamin Hunnicutt], and a study by the US Department of Labor. Most of the workers seemed to embrace the trade-off.
We have since come to accept a different idea, one that puts us in the role of consumers who aim to maximize our working hours and income. To what gain?
Now that we're in a deep recession, I wonder if we might be more open to the lessons of the Kellogg experiment – which lasted until 1985 – as well as to the words of a fellow who lived next to a pond near Concord, Mass.: "Shall we always study to obtain more of these things, and not sometimes to be content with less?... [We] are employed laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool's life."
Henry David Thoreau built his own 10-by-15-foot cabin at Walden Pond for $28 in materials. His furniture consisted of a table, a chair and a bed. For a short time he kept three ornamental pieces of limestone on the table, but decided these were superfluous, throwing them out when he found he had to dust them constantly.
In Thoreau's day, a largely self-sufficient rural economy was just beginning to give way to an economy based on mass production and consumption. He sensed its danger.
When the Kellogg experiment was launched, the country was already headed in a direction that one business leader of the time described as "the gospel of consumption." Slowed by the Depression, the direction came into full flower after World War II, nurtured by an increasingly pervasive and sophisticated advertising industry. Now most of us have been thoroughly indoctrinated in that gospel. But what if, in this shrinking economy, we learned from the Kellogg example and instead of laying people off, US businesses first cut back hours? Some companies are already trying that approach.
Losing one's job is a psychological as well as an economic blow, but as demonstrated by the Kellogg experience, a cutback in hours can have positive benefits. Would it be so terrible if people in this country had to buy less stuff than they've been buying? Many of us, like those in the 1930s, would benefit from consumer downsizing.
[And certainly our planetary ecosystem would benefit if we didn't have to buy so much stuff to prop up our current compulsive-growth economic design.]
It's not likely that all those Kellogg workers spent their extra 10 hours a week [of free time] on self-enrichment and civic-improvement projects. But with reduced income they had to find things to do outside the consumer culture, whether it was going to the library or starting family canning projects. The reduced hours and reduced income actually helped to enrich their lives.
[And because with more rest they were more productive, Kellogg actually returned to 40 hours pay by 1935 - yes, that's 40 hours pay for 30 hours work.]
As Thoreau put it, "Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are ... positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind." In this current recession, it might be well to heed those words. If we do, we may learn to define "enrichment" in something other than Wall Street terms.
Tim Holt is a freelance writer.
- City of Toledo seeks pay cuts of 15% from 5 unions - Mayor slashes 'double dipper' salaries 40%, By JC REINDL and IGNAZIO MESSINA, ToledoBlade.com - Toledo,OH,USA.
Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner called Saturday for city employees in five unions to accept 15 percent pay cuts for a year.
He also vowed to return 40 percent of his $136,000 annual salary, which means he has offered to sacrifice $54,400.
The moves are the latest developments as the city attempts to close the $21.3 million shortfall in its general fund.
Going into the weekend, the mayor ordered all of his nonunion staff members who are "double dippers" - those who have retired and been rehired and draw both pensions and salaries - to take 40 percent pay cuts. That potentially affects about 25 employees.
Mr. Finkbeiner outlined his latest proposal in a letter published as an advertisement on Page A4 of The Blade Saturday.
He characterized the letter as a public update of efforts to balance the 2009 budget.
His letter criticized city councilmen for not supporting his budget measures - proposed tax and fee increases - and chides "most" city unions for not making enough concessions in contract talks.
"This deficit must be reduced or the State of Ohio can act to take control of City government finances," the mayor, referring to how the state can declare a "fiscal emergency" for cities that are unable to balance their budgets or default on debt or payroll obligations.
The mayor continued: "We can avoid major lay-offs if all City employees are willing to take a 15 percent pay reduction for one year."
Robert Reinbolt, the city's safety director and the mayor's chief of staff, said Mr. Finkbeiner's call for "all city employees" was directed at the five unions in negotiations with the city.
They are "the ones that have not given already," Mr. Reinbolt said.
So Mr. Finkbeiner's edict would not apply to members of the city's largest union, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Local 7, which in January accepted a three-year contract that freezes salaries for two years while accepting concessions, including higher co-pays for health care and a greater share of pension contributions.
It also would not apply to the nonunion employees who this month began a 32-hour work week, the equivalent of a 20 percent pay cut.
Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, and other union leaders involved in the negotiations could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Wagner has said his union would not agree to any more negotiating sessions as it awaits a second fact-finding meeting later this month.
The city is in talks with the patrolmen's association it and four other unions: the Toledo Police Command Officers Association, Local 92 Firefighters; AFSCME Local 2058 Supervisors, and Local 7 Communication Operators.
Last month, the city and the patrolmen's association failed to reach an agreement despite an all-day meeting with a fact finder.
Neither the city nor the union would say what derailed the talks, which occurred on the eve of police layoffs.
On May 1, Mr. Finkbeiner laid off 75 police officers and threatened to lay off 125 more unless the police union agrees to concessions.
The Finkbeiner administration also recently issued layoff notices to 142 general-fund workers.
Only about 70 layoffs are expected to occur by Friday; the others would be rescinded.
The mayor in November began returning 10 percent of his salary.
Mayoral spokesman Jason Webber said Mr. Finkbeiner's newspaper ad was paid for by private donations.
Mr. Reinbolt, who is paid $92,499 a year, is among the 25 or so employees who have been rehired after retiring.
He did not have a figure for how much the city could save by a 40 percent reduction in salaries of so-called "double dippers."
"The final details haven't been worked out, but we are willing to take a significant reduction in our pay - those of us who have been retired and rehired," Mr. Reinbolt said.
Councilman D. Michael Collins suggested legislation this year to cut the starting salary of any new retire-rehire city employees by 25 percent.
"I don't think the mayor's move is fair to the employees," Mr. Collins said. "If he were to hire someone today who was retired, going into the job with a 40 percent cut in what the base salary calls for, that would be fair."
Mr. Collins expected some of those employees to quit.
In some cases, the city's directors and commissioners already are paid less than the employees they supervise when overtime is included.
The 40 percent pay cut would put them well below the compensation of their subordinates.
"Some of us could end up being paid below the starting pay of our pay range," Mr. Reinbolt said. "But the city is in major financial situation."
Included in the mayor's budget-balancing plan are:
•$2.98 million in savings from laying off 75 police officers May 1.
••$2 million in savings from laying off about 70 civilian employees next Friday.
••$3 million in savings from still-sought concessions from all city unions, including police and fire.
••$3.2 million in revenue from reducing the income tax credit for Toledoans who work outside the city.
••$1.6 million in revenue from raising the Toledo refuse fee to $10 for people who do not recycle and to $7 for those who do.
•$834,000 in savings from switching city employees to a 32-hour workweek.
The trash fee increase and tax credit decrease are subject to approval of City Council, which is scheduled to meet Tuesday.
Contact JC Reindl at:
5/09/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Graduate nurses must be kept on, says report, by EITHNE DONNELLAN, IrishTimes.com - Dublin,Ireland.
[Beautiful name! Kate: 'Eithne' is probablly Gaelic for 'Edna.']
IRISH PATIENTS will have to bring a relative with them into hospital to look after them in a few years' time "like they do in Ethiopia", unless the Government implements a new report that will see graduate nurses retained in the healthcare system, the annual conference of the Irish Nurses Organisation (INO) was told yesterday.
Annette Kennedy, director of professional development with the INO, said the independent report from the Commission on Nursing Hours that looked at how a 35-hour week could be delivered for nurses recommended two nursing graduates on reduced salaries be employed to replace each retiring nurse.
In this way she said all nurses could get a shorter working week, which they have been campaigning for since they took industrial action in 2007; young nurses would get experience; and over 1,000 replacement nursing jobs would be created every year at a time when jobs rather than more people on the dole were needed.
She added that the report, which was recently submitted to Minister for Health Mary Harney, also pointed to how more efficient use could be made of nurses' time. At present nurses, she said, spend 20 per cent of their time undertaking associated duties like chasing equipment and cleaning. She also pointed out that many patients were spending too long in hospital before operations, which was also an inefficient use of resources.
She pointed to the ageing profile of nurses, saying 50 per cent of all community nurses were over 50 and in general services the vast majority of nurses were over 40. "If we can't bring in new graduates . . . then we will be in trouble," she said.
Ms Harney, in her address to delegates, said the report was "very innovative" and gave "a lot of food for thought". She will be discussing it with the HSE, but ultimately it would have to be approved by Government.
Meanwhile, delegates also heard that about 22 per cent of hospitals and healthcare settings have still not reduced nurses' hours from 39 hours a week to 37.5 hours a week as they were required to do from June 1st, 2008.
The INO is meeting the National Implementation Body on this issue next week and will insist that hours are reduced in all settings and that nurses who haven't yet benefited from the reduction in their hours be compensated retrospectively by pay or time in lieu.
This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times.
- Why free-range kids are on the rise - Amid recession, there are signs the status-obsessed helicopter parent [hovercraft parent would be more apt] is under threat, by Andrea Gordon, TORONTO STAR, Toronto,ONT,Canada. Finder's credit to Eric Holmlund via Kate Jurow.
Four-year-old Maia gets a push on the swing from her mother Kari Svenneby, who advocates a mellower approach to parenting and started Active Kids Club three years ago to spread the slow-childhood gospel. (Photo caption)
Elizabeth Sloss and Kari Svenneby live at opposite ends of Toronto. They are mothers at different stages of childrearing. One has sons, the other a daughter.
What they have in common is attitude. Call them the anti-helicopter parents. They're less about hovering, more about laissez-faire. In their opinion, boredom is not bad for children. And they steadfastly refuse to join the legions of mothers and fathers chauffeuring kids from piano lessons to soccer to tutoring centres aimed at earning them a spot on the honour role.
As Sloss describes it, she is "among the avant-garde of benign neglect." Her sons, 19 and 14, walked to school without grownups from a young age, always played freely outside, and – horrors! – even on the road. But then again, isn't that why they call it road hockey?
Svenneby isn't averse to organized activity, "but it's a question of balance." Her four-year-old daughter plays outside everyday, rain or snow. She climbs trees and makes dandelion crowns.
Until recently, these two mothers might have been lonely voices in the playground, but their calls for slower, freer childhoods are catching on.
Helicopter parents, those obsessive, overprotective mothers and fathers who do their kids' projects on endangered species, harangue their soccer coaches for more playing time and accompany their teens to job interviews, have been around for a few decades, though not always under that name.
Largely a phenomenon of the affluent and middle classes, helicopter parenting was born out of several factors: global competition and the fear that North American kids wouldn't keep up; the erosion of communities and neighbourhoods; and an increasing view of children as extensions of their parents' identities.
Few would argue that the era of hyperparenting, micromanaging, helicopters – whatever you choose to call it – is over. But the zeitgeist points to the beginning of the end.
Put an ear to the rails and you can hear rumblings from the distance; signals that it's okay to ratchet things down in school, sports and after-school hours. This week the Canadian Council on Learning became the latest voice declaring that grade school kids are better off without homework. Parents in Toronto have launched a new non-contact kids hockey league for families that want to opt out of dangerous, über-competitive play, and in Scarborough, the SCARDESO soccer league is booming even though it doesn't keep scores or standings.
Researchers like Michael Ungar, author of Too Safe For Their Own Good and an expert on resilience, continue to warn that kids are deprived of learning and independence by bubble-wrapped childhoods and that they need freedom and time to take risks and make mistakes.
And the venerable Scientific American magazine recently reported that today's kids, robbed of free play, may turn into "anxious, unhappy and socially maladjusted adults."
Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld, a Manhattan child psychiatrist and author who was among the first to popularize the term "hyperparenting" doesn't believe parental anxiety is on the wane. But he says the hurried childhood might slow down slightly thanks to the recession.
"It's becoming clear to some people that the amount of money spent on activities is really taxing the family budget," he said in an interview from his Connecticut home.
The helicopter phenomenon took one of its most lethal hits a year ago from New York mother and writer Lenore Skenazy. She let her nine-year-old son Izzy ride the subway from a department store to his Manhattan home – all by himself. Then she wrote about it in the New York Post and predictably, soon ended up on national TV defending her reckless behaviour. Izzy became the poster child for hands-off parenting.
But Skenazy also tapped into mounting misgivings about hysterical parents and overcoddled kids. She got so many kudos that she launched a blog and just published a book. And now the phrase "free-range" no longer just applies to chickens.
Skenazy's book, Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children The Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts With Worry, has turned up the volume on the topic.
That approach is shared by Sloss, who recoils in horror when grownups shout at three-year-olds: "Don't run! You might fall down!" Who ever croaked from a skinned knee?
Sloss, 50, doesn't believe in the overwrought pursuit of activity and achievement either.
"I believe over-busyness is crippling," says the lawyer and bioethicist, who now works as a freelance editor. "I think stillness is one of the most precious aspects of being alive, and out of that comes wisdom. But we program that out of kids and it's tragic."
For Sloss, the slow childhood phenomenon isn't happening in a vacuum: She likens it to community-minded trends like slow food and the buy-local movement.
The 36-year-old Svenneby says that while the movement may be gaining favour among the intelligentsia, it's a long way from being mainstream.
Born and raised in Norway, Svenneby is a librarian and certified chef with a missionary zeal when it comes to unstructured outdoor play.
She arrived in midtown Toronto three years ago in the dead of winter and was shocked to find the local park empty. So she launched a weekly outdoor playgroup to lure playmates for Maia, now 4. Since then, four year-round groups have sprung up around the city under the Active Kids Club banner. On Wednesday, about 35 kids showed up to frolic on the lawns of Kew Gardens in Toronto's Beach neighbourhood.
Svenneby, who has amassed extensive research and links on her activekidsclub.com website, says convincing parents about the importance of kids being in nature and learning to entertain themselves is no longer a hard sell. "Parents are already questioning themselves."
David Elkind, however, isn't convinced. A renowned child psychologist from Tufts University in Massachusetts and author of the landmark 1981 book The Hurried Child, Elkind was among the first to warn against the perils of pressure and overscheduling.
Yes, momentum is growing, he said in an interview from his Cape Cod home. But it's no match for a culture of commercialism that conditions the youngest children to be consumers and plays expertly to the anxieties of their parents.
"I wish I could be more optimistic," he says. "But it's economic values versus human values and economics are winning out, so I'm not encouraged."
What would it take? Either a disaster – like the continuing decline of child health – or someone famous and influential to take up the cause. U.S. President Barack Obama comes to mind. And so far he's done okay when it comes to promoting family time in the White House.
In an interview with Salon.com this week, Skenazy provided a few pointers for parents who might want to branch out on their own. Leave your cellphone behind for a day and let little Dakota figure out where to find the peanut butter. Let the kids get themselves to school and let them figure out what to do when they're bored.
And if you start to feel guilty, remember one thing: "The fun of childhood is not holding your mom's hand."
- 10 Questions on How to Improve NS's Genuine Progress Index [GPI] - Halifax Group questions party leaders, by Geoff Agombar, Spectator, 5/08 novanewsnow.com, County of Annapolis,NovaScotia, Canada.
Genuine Progress Index Atlantic (GPI Atlantic) is a Halifax-based non-profit research group dedicated to measuring Nova Scotia's wealth in terms that go a step beyond calculating GDP. For 12 years, the group has sought to measure the province's GPI, or Genuine Progress Index. In that time the group has issued in excess of 80 reports on the status of Nova Scotia's human, social, economic, cultural and natural wealth.
In a press release issued today, GPI Atlantic revealed 10 probing questions put to the leaders of Nova Scotia's political parties, promising to post answers to www.GPIatlantic.org
Here are GPI Atlantic's 10 questions for Nova Scotia's political leaders:
1. GPI Atlantic has estimated that illness and crime attributable to unemployment cost Nova Scotia more than $200 million in 2006. Given the high social costs of unemployment, what specific actions would your government take to avoid layoffs during this economic downturn and instead encourage shorter work hours and a redistribution of work time?
2. Inequality has been associated with adverse health outcomes. Yet Atlantic Canada’s wealth is very unevenly distributed, with the richest 10% of households owning about half the region's wealth, while the poorest 40% together own only 3.6%. Do you support a reduction in the gap between rich and poor? If so, what is your target and how will you achieve it?
3. Between 1999 and 2005, household debt in Atlantic Canada grew by 62%, while assets grew by 35%. About 77,000 Atlantic households are so deeply in debt that they couldn’t pay off their debts even if they sold everything they owned, including their homes. What will your government do to increase the financial security of Nova Scotians?
4. Net farm income has declined by 91% since 1971, dipped below zero in 4 of the last 6 years, and in 2007 reached the lowest levels ever recorded in the province. Thus, farming is no longer economically viable in Nova Scotia, and is now in serious crisis—in actual danger of demise as an economic, social, and cultural institution. What will you do to restore farm economic viability in Nova Scotia?
5. Nova Scotian volunteers contribute $1.8 billion worth of services to the provincial economy. Between 1992 and 2005, there was a 21% decline in civic and voluntary work in Nova Scotia, with fewer volunteers putting in longer hours to maintain services. Because no money is exchanged, the value of volunteerism is invisible in our economic growth statistics and related measures of progress. What will your government do to ensure that this major decline in social capital is a) recognized and b) reversed?
6. GPI Atlantic estimates that obesity costs Nova Scotia $148 million a year in direct health care costs—or roughly 5% of the total health budget—and an additional $173 million a year in indirect productivity losses, totalling more than $320 million. In Nova Scotia between 1994-95 and 2005, the rate of obesity increased from 16.7% to 20.7% and the province has consistently had higher rates of obesity than the national average. What is your target for reduction and what will you do to achieve it?
7. Electricity production accounts for more than 31% of Nova Scotia’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, highlighting the need to shift away from coal-fired power plants. Transportation accounts for 29% of total GHG emissions. If elected a) will your government strive to achieve the Suzuki Foundation target of 25% reduction of GHG emissions below 1990 levels by 2020, and b) what strategies will you employ in the energy and transportation sectors to achieve this?
8. In 2005-06, clearcutting accounted for 94% of all forest harvesting in Nova Scotia while selection harvesting—which removes trees selectively to maintain the integrity, age and species diversity, health, and value of the forest as a whole—only accounted for 1.5% of all logging. Will your government reduce the level of clearcutting and increase the level of more sustainable selection harvesting? If so, what targets will you try to achieve by when, and what will you do to achieve them?
9. Nova Scotia has lost most of its old forests, with forests over 80 years old down from 25% of forests 50 years ago to just 1.5% today. There is a continuing shift to ever younger forests, and an increase in the number of known forest-dependent species at risk. Do you consider these trends problematic, and if so, what will your government do to help restore Nova Scotia's forest wealth?
10. In the late 1990s, Nova Scotia became a world leader in solid waste management, achieving 50% waste diversion in 2000—the first jurisdiction in all North America to achieve this target. But Nova Scotians are now producing and disposing nearly one-third more garbage, and waste diversion dropped from 50% in 2000 to 36% in 2006. What will your government do to restore Nova Scotia's leadership in this area?
- Green curriculum at UK preschool, By Jennifer Chait, 5/08 Blisstree.com, England,UnitedKingdom.
We’ve heard it time and time again - kids who spend more time outside in nature are healthier, happier, and more fit. Most schools though are a direct contradiction to this. Kids spend hours and hours sitting at desks and outdoor play time is cut shorter each year.
Farley Nursery School in Wiltshire allows kids to spend much of their day outside instead of cooped up inside at desks.
[= Cutting the workday and starting the fight against workaholism at the nursery school level?]
Children are encouraged to head outside, rain, shine, snow, kids are outside playing, planting, growing, investigating and exploring. This not only allows kids to gain an awareness of and respect for the environment but preps them for a healthier lifestyle overall.
According to an article in the Times Online, Farley School, “Classrooms are invariably empty and the children spend all day, every day, outdoors – even the babies, who, at six months, entertain themselves in the sandpit or, when it is time for a nap, fall asleep gazing up at the sky in a series of sturdy Silver Cross prams parked in the courtyard.”
It looks like there’s still prepared lessons going on - i.e. a math and science instructor comes in and there are also music, singing and dance sessions and French, so it’s not quite unschooling which is what another article about the school notes, but it’s better than regualr school in my opinion.
My own son went to an eco charter and now goes to a free school. At both schools kids spend as much time outside as they like and you see less fighting among the kids, less “hyper’ kids, and a more chill atmosphere overall.
5/08/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Rogers Corp. To Cut 20 Jobs In State, By DIANE LEVICK | The Hartford Courant via
Courant.com - United States.
Rogers Corp. said Thursday that it will cut another 5 percent of its salaried staff worldwide, or about 40 jobs, including 20 in Connecticut.
The jobs will be eliminated by the end of June through a combination of layoffs, voluntary severance offers, early retirements and leaving vacant positions unfilled, said William Tryon, manager of investor and public relations. The company expects to take a charge of about $1.2 million in the second quarter to reflect severance costs. The manufacturer of specialty materials, based in the Rogers section of Killingly, is reducing staff to bring its costs in line with declining revenues, Tryon said. Rogers Corp. has about 1,750 employees worldwide, including 280 in Connecticut.
The latest job cuts come on top of a 10 percent reduction of Rogers' salaried employees worldwide, which was disclosed in early February. That round involved 90 salaried employees worldwide, including about 20 in Connecticut.
Rogers' plant in Woodstock, which had been cut back to a three-day work week, increased to a four-day work week in late March.
Rogers makes high-performance specialty materials for various markets, including portable communications, consumer products, communication infrastructure, ground transportation, and aerospace and defense.
- Jobless rate jumps to 8.9% even as job losses throttle back - Nonfarm payrolls drop by 539,000; average hourly pay grows just 1 cent, By Rex Nutting, MarketWatch.com - USA.
WASHINGTON -- The unemployment rate jumped to a 26-year high of 8.9% in April as the U.S. economy shed 539,000 more jobs, the Department of Labor reported Friday.
The nonfarm payrolls report was largely as expected, reflecting a slight easing in the pace of massive job destruction that had averaged 680,000 over the previous five months. Since the recession began in December 2007, payrolls have fallen by 5.7 million, or 4.1% of payrolls, the largest percentage decline since the 1958 recession.
April's loss of 539,000 jobs was the smallest decline since October's 380,000. However, job losses in February and March were revised higher by a total of 66,000.
"It is a sobering toll," said President Barack Obama. "We're still in the midst of a recession that was years in the making and will be months or even years in the unmaking; and we should expect further job losses in the months to come."
Job losses were widespread across industries in April. The only sectors adding jobs were health care and government, which was boosted by the hiring of temporary workers to prepare for the census next year. Private-sector employment fell by 611,000.
Average hourly earnings rose 1 cent to $18.51 an hour, the smallest increase in three years.
"Soaring unemployment is depressing wage gains," wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics. That is "seriously bad news because without wage gains people can't deleverage unless they cut spending deeply."
[And yet "The average workweek was steady at a record-low 33.2 hours" (below) which is actually GOOD NEWS about the efficiency and productivity of our technology, so market forces are actually reducing our workweek for us willy nilly. But since we have not cut the official definition of "full time" to match free-market reality, or cut it further to reduce the surplus labor who are bidding down wages and slowing the rise of average hourly earnings, we have turned good news into bad news. So, do we really have a "free market" economy with a definition of "full time" employment that's rigidly controlled and has been frozen for 69 years at a level appropriate for our technological efficiency back then? - I don't think so.]
The consensus among economists is for gross domestic product to decline again in the current quarter, at about a 2% annualized pace, following the worst back-to-back losses for GDP in 50 years. After that, tepid growth in the second half probably won't be strong enough to keep the unemployment rate from rising further, they say.
"While the April employment report provides glimmers of hope, obviously, conditions are going to have to brighten a lot more to make that forecast a reality," wrote Stephen Stanley, chief economist for RBS Securities. "This looks very much like an inflection point, and the corroborating evidence ... all suggest that the pace of layoffs is finally beginning to abate."
According to a survey of hundreds of thousands of work sites, goods-producing industries shed 270,000 jobs, and the private-sector services industries cut 341,000.
For the recession as a whole, goods-producing industries have cut 2.8 million jobs, while private-sector services have cut 3.2 million. This is the first U.S. recession in which more jobs have been lost in services than in goods-producing industries.
Of 271 industries, 28% were hiring in April, up from 20% in March.
Total hours worked in the economy fell 0.6% in April and are down 6.6% in the past year. The average workweek was steady at a record-low 33.2 hours.
The separate survey of households showed employment rose by 120,000, the first increase since April 2008.
Unemployment rose by 563,000 to 13.7 million. The employment-population ratio was steady at 59.9%, the lowest rate since 1985.
A separate gauge of unemployment that includes discouraged workers and workers who can find only part-time work rose from 15.6% to a record 15.8%, with data reaching back to 1994.
The number of workers who want full-time work but who can only find part-time jobs declined by 139,000 to 8.9 million, an encouraging shift. Since the recession began, involuntary part-time workers have increased by 4.3 million.
Of the 13.7 million people listed as officially unemployed, a record 27.2% have been out of work longer than six months.
To help the long-term unemployed, Obama said he would encourage states to change rules to allow recipients of unemployment benefits to seek job training without giving up their weekly check. He also proposed changes in federal education grants to allow more funds to go to unemployed people.
Employment in manufacturing fell by 149,000, while the average factory workweek rose by 0.2 hours, another encouraging sign, since the factory workweek is one of 10 major leading indicators.
Employment in construction industries dropped by 110,000.
Employment in retail fell by 47,000. Financial services cut 40,000 jobs. Professional and business services cut 122,000 jobs, including 63,000 temporary workers, a discouraging sign.
Health services added 17,000 jobs. Hospitality industries cut 44,000 jobs.
Government added 72,000 jobs, mostly temporary census jobs. State and local governments added 6,000 jobs, despite widespread accounts of layoffs.
End of Story
Rex Nutting is Washington bureau chief of MarketWatch.
- Swiss Unemployment Rises to a Three-Year High, by Geng Chen, DailyFX Research via
DailyFX.com - New York,NY,USA.
Swiss unemployment rose to 3.4% in April from 3.3% in March. This was the highest reading in three years and the jobless total rose 35.5% over the year. As in neighbouring Germany, more and more companies are putting their work force on shorter hours (Kurzarbeit), which can only ever be a temporary solution to prevent laying off staff if one assumes that demand will pick up again.
[Wrong - if demand "picks up from a much lower level, it can be a permanent solution to prevent laying off staff - because if they keep laying off staff, they'll just guarantee a further delay in when demand picks up.]
If there is no turnaround and production remains subdued, companies will eventually have to cut staff, which would push unemployment sharply higher later in the year.
[Geng Chen evidently hasn't thought this through. He still assumes there's some deus ex machina that is causing marketable production to remain subdued - and not the layoffs themselves. The real eventuality is that companies will have to stop cutting staff or they'll have no markets whatsoever, because BELIEVE IT OR NOT, GENG CHEN there are dots to connect between your workforce and your consumer base, ie: your employees and their dependents are one and the same with your customers and your customers' customers.]
5/07/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- EU calls for shorter work week to create jobs, Agence France-Presse via www.google.com/hostednews/afp.
PRAGUE (AFP) — EU leaders on Thursday called for a shorter working week and extra state-funded retraining programmes as recession threatens millions of jobs.
However, the results of a special EU meeting on the continent's labour crisis failed to impress union leaders who are increasingly concerned about mass lay-offs.
With the recession expected to wipe out 8.5 million European jobs over two years, top officials from the Czech Republic, Sweden and Spain -- the current and future EU presidencies -- agreed to focus on identifying job opportunities, upgrading skills and encouraging labour mobility.
"We haven't signed up to those conclusions. They are not enough, it's very general," John Monks, secretary general of the European Trade Union Confederation, told AFP.
[Here's hoping the ETUC isn't as suicidal as American unions that lost sight of shorter hours and went for higher pay - thereby fighting market forces and getting neither. If they'd kept fighting for shorter hours as they had from 1840 to 1940, they'd have wound up with both shorter hours and higher pay because they'd have harnessed market forces to hike wages in response to reduced labor surplus relative to employment, job candidates relative to job openings.]
The talks also revealed more philosphical rifts as the free-market friendly approach of Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and Sweden's Fredrik Reinfeldt clashed with calls for a social market economy from European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.
[Just watch how far the US gets with 'socialism' for the few wealthy and 'capitalism' for the many not-wealthy - and be sure to look behind the official rosied-up figures - if and when the US claims that its 'recovery' is 'starting', as some are claiming already, it will be from much, much reduced levels, as prevail already.]
"We all agree on the goals, but we may not always agree on the means," Topolanek, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, said.
In one of the more specific conclusions, the EU said in a statement that member states should "maintain as many people as possible in jobs, with temporary adjustment of working hours combined with retraining and supported by public funding."
[The only public funding you need is only during the transition and only for low-wage workers and only from the unemployment insurance fund and only from the money which worksharing workweek reduction is saving the fund from having to pay out. All the rest of the private-sector's salvation can be financed by the private-sector itself, via confiscatory taxes on overtime profits from overworking existing staff vis-a-vis hiring more employees - with a complete exemption for overtime-targeted hiring (and if necessary, training).]
While EU Labour Commissioner Vladimir Spidla told AFP the measure was "reasonable and efficient," his compatriot Topolanek warned against excessive public spending and protectionism.
"The EU should work with the idea of an active individual, not a paternalist state that will take care of everything at the cost of debts and higher taxes," he said.
[There are no debts and the higher burdens on general income-tax payers here - only exemptable overtime taxes designed to spread the vanishing work on the basis of market demand. Company A has temporary overtime and as soon as possible does converts the overtime into jobs via overtime-targeted training and hiring with the money it 'saves' from practicing overtime instead of immediately hiring - invokes overtime-tax exemption due to OT-targeted OJT and hiring. Company B practices permanent, job-bottlenecking overtime and workforce overwork, invokes overtime tax - government job agency immediately uses these OT tax revenues to simulate the training and hiring that Company B should be doing to make the overtime self-resolving. You play or you pay for overtime-to-job conversion, as market-oriented as possible. Where's the paternalism? The state only steps in when the private sector insists on suicidal, market-shrinking policies of worktime concentration and system-eroding, wage&spending-shrinking, labor-surplus fostering.]
"We have to work through businesses and employees to try to develop our welfare model and create an atmosphere conducive to investment and jobs," added Reinfeldt, whose country will take the EU presidency on July 1.
[That's exactly what is accomplished by a corporate overtime tax with a complete exemption for OT-targeted training and hiring.]
The meeting proposed stepping up training for young unemployed, less red tape and more encouragement for people to move to where jobs can be found.
[Cutting red tape is good. Removing barriers for people to move where jobs can be found is good, but tax-revenue-requiring 'encouragement' aka incentives aka taxpayer-dependent subsidies are not necessary. Nor is it necessary to get into agism except in terms of removing age-specific barriers.]
Barroso highlighted the "changing social situation" and added "there can be no economic recovery on the foundations of social collapse just as there can be no social progress in an economic desert."
[Barroso and Spidia sound like pretty smart guys. Topolonek and Reinfeldt may need to get past American propaganda and see what economic desertification is really 'goin down' in the US frozen-workweek economy.]
The "troika" style meeting was a much-reduced version of the full-scale EU jobs summit with all 27 heads of state and government that the Czech Republic had envisaged.
[Hey, if the Czech Republic, Spain and Sweden replace downsizing with systemic timesizing, they will experience so early and sustainable a recovery that the other 24 will be embarrassed into imitation, the sincerest form of flattery.]
Union leaders said the shrunken attendance was a sign of a lack of interest.
[We are seeing in the once-great USA how far you get on the theory that the finance&investment sector is the foundation of the economy, not the employment bedrock beneath the consumer base.]
"It's a pity it's not the major social summit which we would have preferred," said Wanja Lundby-Wedin, European Trade Union Confederation president.
[Spin it as a market summit next time, not a social summit. Use your heads for Chrissake.]
However Spanish Labour Minister Celestino Corbacho declared that "this is the first time during the crisis that we are going to deal specifically with the issue of unemployment."
[Bingo - the whole topic of employment is just too nasty for the wealthy to discuss, so it's vanished from the table. But watch how low the USA has brought itself with this taboo - with a central bank that has dropped its primary goal of full employment to focus on its secondary goal (controlling inflation). As one of the letters in our less-strategic goodnews section today puts it: "I don't recognize the people who have taken over the [Republican] party my family served for 150 years. The Republicans I grew up among believed in democratic capitalism, not a feudal society of gated communities for themselves served by an ill-housed, ill-nourished, ill-educated, un-doctored servant population.... They did not have utter contempt for working people. Even amid the social upheaval of the '60s, they were not the callous, precious, entitled people currently calling themselves "Republicans."]
Jean-Claude Juncker, the Luxembourg prime minister and chairman of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, warned recently that the EU faced a "social crisis" if EU leaders failed to respond to the economic slump and job cuts.
Lamenting that the summit had been downgraded, Juncker said: "Even if you don't have any ideas at this stage, that doesn't mean you should not get down to tackling the problem."
[Here's a version of The Big Question right here: Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg is asking for ideas at this stage in responding to the economic slump and job cuts. We give him ... Timesizing. Hey, it's happening spontaneously throughout the private secotor anyway all over the world, even in the neanderthal USA, but not necessarily in a systemic best way - just run your eyes at all the cases in this webpage (we usually only have time to highlite two cases a day but we get dozens a day based on only two search phrases: cut workweek & shorter hours).]
The European Commission forecast on Monday that Europe was set to see unemployment rise to the highest levels since World War II with 8.5 million Europeans expected to lose their jobs in 2009 and 2010.
- Lanxess books 1Q net loss of euro14 million, By GEORGE FREY, AP via Forbes.com - NY,USA.
German chemical company Lanxess AG reported a first quarter net loss on Thursday after the company experienced a sharp drop in demand because of the world economic crisis.
The Leverkusen-based company said it lost euro14 million ($19 million) in the January-March period compared with a net profit of euro104 million in the first quarter of 2008.
Sales fell 31 percent to just over euro1 billion from euro1.5 billion in the first quarter of 2008.
The company said it expected sales and earnings to be lower in 2009, but said it's starting to see a bit of a turnaround. Lanxess said it expects an improvement in second quarter pretax earnings compared to the first quarter's, but that the results would still be below the second quarter results from 2008.
"All business units were impacted by the global recession," said Axel Heitmann, Lanxess' chief executive in the company's report.
"The drop in demand of more than 35 percent reached historic proportions. But by immediately launching our extensive 'Challenge 09' package of global measures, we succeeded in achieving nearly one-third of the very high earnings level seen in the prior-year period," Heitmann said.
He said despite the difficult environment the company is "in a sound financial position," and has more than euro2 billion in reserve.
The "Challenge 09" program will reduce working hours and compensation for employees, and combined with other production and technical measures, aims to cut costs by about euro250 million through 2010.
In January, the company announced it was cutting back hours and pay for 5,000 German employees. It said at the time it would strike bonuses and reduce the work week for non-managerial employees to 35 hours from 37.5.
The company also said in January that salary reviews worldwide will be postponed by at least six months and in some countries, salary increases would be postponed by a year.
Lanxess has a total of about 14,800 employees in 21 countries. Thursday's report made no mention of job cuts or layoffs.
As for the company's divisions, Lanxess said Thursday it saw a 35 percent decline in the performance polymers division's sales, to euro448 million from euro693 million in the first quarter a year ago.
Sales in the advanced intermediates division, which includes agrochemical products, declined 22 percent to euro258 million.
In the performance chemicals division, used by industries including automotive, construction and steel, Lanxess saw a 32 percent decline in sales to euro338 million.
Shares of Lanxess dropped 8.3 percent to close at euro16.80 in Frankfurt.
- Globe union faces cuts, furloughs - Approval called crucial for paper's future, by Gavin & O'Brien, Boston Globe, p.A1.
Members of the Boston's Globe largest union tonight will hear the details of a proposal that would impose deep wage cuts, freeze pensions for many employees, and essentially eliminate the lifetime job guarantees held by veteran employees to provide the $10 million in savings demanded by the paper's owner, the New York Times Co.
The proposal, described as the company's final offer to the Boston Newspaper Guild, includes two measures that roughly amount to a 10 percent reduction in wages: an 8.3 percent wage cut and five days of unpaid furlough, according to several people briefed on the negotiations who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Other provisions include an end to matching 401(k) retirement contributions. Those with the job guarantees would receive enhanced severance payments if they are laid off, according to people briefed on the negotiations. About 190 Guild members hold the guarantee, which was negotiated in a 1994 contract in exchange for union concessions.
Getting the Guild to put a management offer before members reflects remarkable progress over the past four days. Management was prepared to file on Monday a 60-day plant-closing notice with the state when none of the paper's major unions had reached agreements for $20 million in concessions by the May 1 deadline. Then three of the four major unions struck deals, but the Guild and management remained far apart on any agreement until early yesterday morning.
With the threat of closure put aside for now, some Globe employees, readers, and community leaders breathed a sigh of relief yesterday.
Paul Grogan, president and chief executive of civic group The Boston Foundation, said the latest Guild deal essentially gives Boston's 137-year-old newspaper "new life."
"Just avoiding closure, I think, was very, very important," Grogan said yesterday. "And this will create an opportunity to figure something out."
So far this year hundreds of journalists and others at newspapers across the nation have been laid off as advertising revenue plunges because of the recession. Some papers have closed, while others have asked for deep employee cuts to survive. Many unions have agreed to benefit cuts and wage concessions.
This week the Chicago Newspaper Guild, the union representing Chicago Sun-Times editorial employees, approved a temporary 9 percent pay cut, a furlough, and a deferral of pension contributions, according to the Sun-Times. Meanwhile, Newspaper Guild members at The New York Times approved a 5 percent pay cut through the end of this year to save an estimated $4.5 million.
Tonight's Guild meeting in Boston kicks off what will probably be a difficult ratification process for the union, which represents more than 600 editorial, advertising, and business office workers. Unlike other Globe unions, Guild leaders did not strike a tentative agreement with the company. Instead, they merely reached an understanding to present the company's final offer to members for a vote.
Union leaders do not plan to recommend for or against its ratification. The vote has not been scheduled.
"We have a proposal to bring before members of The Boston Newspaper Guild," Guild president Daniel Totten said in a note to members e-mailed yesterday. "Since each member is the final authority on contract matters, it is imperative that we bring a proposal forward that will ultimately be voted on by the entire membership."
If the proposal is rejected, it would send the Guild negotiators back to the bargaining table with no guarantee they would get a better deal.
"It's going to be a tough vote," said Sean P. Murphy, who has worked 22 years as a reporter and editor. "The company's demanding very deep sacrifices."
Diane Fedele, who has worked in advertising for 26 years, said the Times Co. proposals have divided older and younger members over issues such as lifetime job guarantees.
"It's tough," said Fedele, a Guild member with a job guarantee. The company has "done a good job of convincing newer people that if it wasn't for us, we'd all be OK."
A rejection would raise new questions about the future of the Globe, which the Times Co. threatened to shutter unless the paper's unions agreed to $20 million in financial givebacks, as well contract concessions, such as the elimination of lifetime job guarantees for members in some unions. The Globe is projected to lose $85 million this year without significant cost reductions, according to the Times Co.
Catherine Mathis, the Times Co. spokeswoman, declined comment yesterday.
Globe management and the Guild ended negotiations early yesterday morning, culminating more than a month of high-stakes bargaining. Early Monday, Globe management reached agreements with unions representing press operators, mailers, and delivery truck drivers. In addition to millions in financial concessions, the pressmen and mailers agreed to modify lifetime job guarantee language in their contracts. As with the Guild, the members of the other unions must ratify the agreements before they can take effect.
Like many newspapers, the Globe has been hard hit over the years by the migration of readers and advertisers to the Internet, and more recently, by the recession. In the first three months of this year, advertising revenue at the Times Co.'s New England Media Group, dominated by the Globe, plunged by more than 30 percent compared with the same period in 2008.
Even with the union concessions, the Globe still faces the challenges of navigating the recession and finding a successful business model in the Internet age. Through its online affiliate, Boston.com, the Globe is attracting more readers than ever, but Internet advertising revenues remain insufficient to support newsgathering and other staff at the same levels as in the past.
To close the $85 million gap, the Globe is also counting on savings from cuts in management salaries and benefits and from the closing of the Billerica printing plant. The paper expects to raise revenue with more digital advertising and higher newspaper prices.
Former publisher Benjamin Taylor, the last member of his family to run the Globe, said it's important to the community that labor and management strike deals to help preserve the newspaper. Still, he cautioned it won't relieve the financial pressures facing newspapers.
"The paper has to prove itself every day with good reporting and good editing, and it's doing that," Taylor said. "But the economics of the newspaper business is difficult, and that's going to have to be solved."
Robert Gavin can be reached at email@example.com. Keith O'Brien can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5/06/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- The Ripple Effect In A Stormy Economy - Boat Dealer's Woes Highlight Financial Interconnectedness, by Kelly Cobiella, CBS Evening News via cbsnews.com - New York,NY,USA.
HOMOSASSA, Fla. (!!!!) - Tampa boat dealer Robert Tronio calls it the "wow factor." For 30 years, a spin on the water has helped him sell thousands of new Pro-Line boats.
"Does the wow factor still work even in this economy?" CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella asked.
"Some people don't get to get their wow factor because I can't get their credit approved," Tronio said.
Today, Tronio's boats are as dry as his business. Sales are down 30 percent, from nearly $14 million in 2007 to $9.5 million last year. He said once the bills are paid, he's left with a much smaller profit, down a whopping 80 percent.
"Unfortunately, I have had to lay some people off, I've had to cut people's hours, cut people's salaries," Tronio said. "My managers got a 20 percent cut, I'm working a four day work week with the people that I have … I'm looking at getting into some new lines of credit."
Tronio's operating costs have skyrocketed. Banks are charging him a lot more to put boats on the showroom floor. Just last month, they upped his interest rate by 7 percent.
"It is a domino effect, if they push too hard, all the dominos are going to fall," Tronio said.
They've already started falling. Because Tronio is not selling boats, he has stopped buying boats from this Pro-Line factory in Homosassa, Fla.
The factory laid off most of its employees in November.
"It's so quiet in here, what did it used to be like?" asked Cobiella.
"Normally you couldn't hear yourself think," said Pro-Line President John Walker.
At its peak, 400 people worked here, building 10 boats every day. The day of the CBS News visit, there was one boat and four employees.
"If the dealer can't order boats you can't build them and sit them out in the yard, so we stopped building boats," Walker said.
And they stopped buying cushions for those boats from Gary Helms. He gave the nine sewers and stuffers at his upholstery shop in Homosassa busy work for three months, hoping the slowdown was temporary.
"We kept hearing next month, next month, next month," Helms said. "And we're still hearing next month."
Last November, he laid them off. That means Lois Mack isn't sewing. She made $9 an hour at the upholstery shop. Today she's earning $7 an hour at the local grocery store and supporting her husband Faron. He lost his job at the Pro-Line factory last November.
"We're making it, but barely, it wouldn't take much to push us the other way," Faron Mack said.
They've stopped eating out, and buying gifts for grandkids. Their 19-year-old son is helping with half of the $800-a-month mortgage on a home worth $50,000 less than when they bought it.
Jobs are hard to come by in this small town, and no one pays as well as Pro-Line.
"Watching him call every Friday to see if he could go to work …" Lois Mack said, choking up.
"Most days, do you think about what you're going through?" Cobiella asked.
"I try not to," Lois Mack said. "I keep trying to think things will get better."
"And are they getting better?" Cobiella asked.
"No," she said.
Nearly everyone in this small river town is caught in the wake of a sinking marine industry, and the ripple effect doesn't stop here. The waves of recession that hit t he boat seller in Tampa and the boat maker in Homosassa have washed up on the shores of Lake Michigan, where a fiberglass company in Chicago is trying to stay afloat.
- Mexico chugs back to life after flu shutdown, By Mica Rosenberg, Reuters via WashingtonPost.com - United States.
MEXICO CITY - Mexico emerged on Wednesday from five days of lockdown as traffic clogged streets and taco vendors worked the sidewalks after extraordinary measures aimed at containing the deadly H1N1 flu were lifted.
Companies from cement maker Cemex to brewer Femsa went back to work and Mayan ruins and Aztec pyramids reopened to tourists, although many small enterprises were nervous that lingering fear over catching swine flu would smother business for days to come.
"I hope to return to normal because this is hitting us really hard," said Ernesto Morales, a waiter at the Cafe Genova in Mexico City, where following government guidance, patrons were being seated more than 6 feet apart.
Mexico's giant capital of 20 million people as well as provincial cities ground almost to a halt last Friday as the government ordered non-essential businesses to close to curb the spread of a virus that has killed 42 people in Mexico and two in the United States.
The flu crisis waylaid a country already in recession and could knock an additional 0.3 to 0.5 of a percentage point off 2009 gross domestic product, the government said.
Tourism, which accounts for roughly 8 percent of the economy, has taken a hit and the five-day shutdown dented the income of the millions of shoe shiners and juice makers who depend on foot traffic to make a living.
At a hair salon in the normally buzzing Zona Rosa district, clients were desperate to book appointments.
"Everybody is stressed out," said salon owner Antonio Fonseca, who reckons he lost some $6,000 in income. "Five days without working but with all the same bills to pay."
Mexican schools remained closed as a precaution against the never-before-seen flu strain, which has infected some 2,000 people in at least 24 countries.
Cinemas were required to leave two seats empty between customers, and restaurants had to limit their hours and could not seat more than four people at a table.
"This is a return to normal but only in a manner of speaking," said Eduardo Corte, a cafe manager. "Of 24 tables, I've only got half of them available and the hours are shorter. There are a lot of restrictions."
[So even the swine flu is pointing the way out of this economic downturn!]
PUBLIC TRANSPORT "LAUNDERS" MONEY
In Tijuana, on the northern border with California, life slowly returned to normal, although people continued to wear face masks, especially in taxis, restaurants and banks. Farther south, the port of Ensenada was lamenting the diversion of cruise ships to nearby San Diego.
"We hope the government helps us out because in just a few days we saw a catastrophic collapse of 80 percent in sales," said Julian Palombo, president of an association of tourism-related businesses in Tijuana. The government has offered tax relief to some affected companies.
In Ciudad Juarez, on the border with Texas, traffic was light and dentists specializing in serving bargain-hunting Americans reopened.
"(The government) created useless panic instead of helping us out," said Emilia Holguin, a stationery store manager.
Mexico City's public transportation network took to disinfecting coins to prevent spread of the virus, which contains DNA typical to avian, swine and human viruses. Humans are especially vulnerable to new viruses against which they have yet to develop defenses.
"It's going to take a long time to return to normality because people are still scared of the disease," said Beatriz Herrera, 35, an assistant at a clothing store where business was slow.
(Additional reporting by Louise Egan, Miguel Angel Gutierrez, Robert Campbell and Esteban Israel in Mexico City, Lizbeth Diaz in Tijuana and Julian Cardona in Ciudad Juarez; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Catherine Bremer and Peter Cooney)
5/5/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Giving internships a post-college try - With jobs scarce, recent grads look to make the most of part-time gigs, by Toddi Gutner, WSJ, D4.
[So workweek reduction is happening anyway, but not in the best way, which would be to redefine 'full time' downward to carry downward with it all full-time benefits and stop further impoverishment of the workforce and consumer base and further deceleration of our currency circulation (bye-bye economic 'dynamism') and further shrinkage in marketable productivity and sustainable investments therein.]
Nora Cook has her dream job. As a member of the "recycling police" for the Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority in Walnut Creek, Calif., Ms. Cook, who graduated with a business economics degree from California State University East Bay in June, finds businesses that don't recycle, educates them on the process and keeps track of their progress.
But Ms. Cook's job isn't the sort of full-time gig a recent college grad would be lucky to find in this economy. Rather, it's a nine-month, 20-hour-a-week internship that she hopes will help her land a full-time position.
Internships -- both formal, paid training programs and less formal, unpaid positions -- have long been used as a recruiting tool and as a way for young professionals to get their foot in the door of an organization. Among graduating college students who had internships, nearly 70% received offers of full-time employment from their internship hosts during the 2007-2008 academic year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers 2009 Experiential Education Survey.
In this tepid economy, taking an internship when a "full-time" job can't be found [our quotes - ed.] may be a new grad's best option. "There has never been such a high level of graduates taking internships," says Donald Asher a career expert and author of "Who Gets Promoted and Why." While many of the more-formal internship programs geared toward undergrads may already be filled, soon-to-be grads can still find them if they're resourceful, target their efforts and are willing to work to convince a company to create one for them.
You've probably already targeted the companies at which you'd like to work. To get an internship created for you, you'll need to use your network to find someone at the company who can help you. If you had a good interview with a recruiter or met an executive at a campus networking event, that's a good place to start. Tell your contact you understand there are no jobs available, but ask if you can come in for an informational interview to learn more about the firm.
If you're excited about what you hear, ask your contact if there's a way you could do an internship to learn more. Offer up ideas on where you might fit in and stress that you're flexible and eager to learn. If you're in a position to offer your services without pay for a short period of time, say so. But even then, there are a few things you can do to make sure you're going to get the sort of experience that will help you land a job later.
The best internships will provide meaningful work, a mentor relationship and opportunities to expand professional contacts and connections. The goal, short of a coveted job offer, is to "make sure there is a work project with a finished product and a highly positive letter of recommendation" at the end of the internship, says Mr. Asher.
To land a position that benefits you, ask critical questions during the interview or negotiation process. If you're asking for a spot to be created, have enough knowledge about the company so you can suggest a worthwhile project that benefits the firm. If the program is more formal, ask if there are any projects planned for interns and whether there will be an intern supervisor or mentor.
Marianne Ruggiero, founder and managing director of Optima Careers, a career consulting firm, suggests asking how much time you will be able to spend learning about the business. Offer up examples of what you'd like to do, such as attending a client meetings or working alongside someone whose career inspires you. And check to see if you'll have opportunities to attend events, lunches or classes; these will be critical for getting more involved and making professional connections.
Of course, there are no guarantees that even with the most pointed questions, an internship will be a winner. Sometimes, "there is a huge disconnect between what [organizations] say in the interview ... and what they ask the intern to do the first week," says Mr. Asher.
In that case, do the scut work without complaint and then "design, get sponsorship for and approval for a project that can showcase [your] analytical skills or show work above and beyond what others have done," he says.
Even if your internship turns out to be a strong learning experience, you can still go the extra mile to stand out. Lindsey Block is finishing a master's degree in elementary education at Northwestern University while working as an intern at the Field Museum in Chicago. While she's responsible for coordinating education programs within the museum -- work she says offers a good deal of responsibility -- Ms. Block took on another project.
When she saw that the museum needed help organizing a program for high-school biology students, Ms. Block offered to help. She hopes her efforts will resonate with her supervisor, who is also in charge of hiring for a soon-to-be-available full-time position.
Of course, even doing everything right may not result in a job offer. Ms. Cook, who is interning on the recycling project, was set to be hired as a "full-time" program manager [our quotes - ed.] by her internship employer until budget cuts eliminated the position. Still, she says it has been worth it. "I've gained a lot of confidence in my abilities and made lots of connections with other waste-management companies and recyclers," says Ms. Cook.
[It's time we woke up to the fact that "full time" is an entirely arbitrary concept, an historical accident. As such it is completely manipulable - and must be in any robotized economy, because as Reuther retorted when Ford said, "Let's see you unionize these robots!" - "Let's see YOU sell them cars."]
- Area manufacturers show signs of recovery, By Harold Brubaker, Philadelphia Inquirer via philly.com - Philadelphia,PA,USA.
Local manufacturers, battered by a near-total collapse in business last fall, are seeing signs that the worst of the recession may be over.
"Around October, it was like somebody cut the phone lines to our company. Everything just stopped," Hank Leipert, chief executive officer of SciCast International Inc., of Bechtelsville, near Pottstown, said yesterday.
"People held back and held back and held back, and now they don't have anything to sell. They are looking for quick deliveries," said Leipert, who has recalled workers for a partial second shift to meet rising orders.
SciCast, which makes parts for the defense, construction, and other industries by spraying molten aluminum or zinc into molds under high pressure, is back to nearly 50 employees from a low of 20. It is still operating with 20 percent across-the-board pay cuts.
Leipert's experience was echoed in last week's Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing Survey. The monthly survey showed that while the sector nationally continued shrinking in April, there were signs of a revival, with the measure of new orders at its highest since September.
Aaron Smith, senior economist at Moody's Economy.com in West Chester, said another good sign was that manufacturers' inventories of finished goods fell for four straight months through March. "That's what bodes the best for restocking," he said.
Several Philadelphia-area manufacturers spoke in interviews yesterday of signs of stability and glimmers of an upturn. However, they remain in a trough and are unsure if they will ever get back to where they were before the worldwide financial crisis drained business and consumer confidence.
"The people we are dealing with are maybe not quite as frantic as they were when things appeared to be sliding," said Jack Kontas, general manager of H.S. Martin Inc., a Vineland, N.J., manufacturer of scientific glassware for the pharmaceutical and other industries.
H.S. Martin, which employs 17, went to a four-day workweek in January, but has seen enough new business to consider going to five days one week per month, Kontas said. "We are starting to get a little bit of confidence back."
At Stockwell Elastomerics Inc. - a Northeast Philadelphia manufacturer of rubber components for companies that make medical equipment, wind turbines, and other high-tech equipment - requests for prototypes and raw-material samples have picked up, owner Bill Stockwell said.
In a month or two, that should start paying off in new business, said Stockwell, who has taken advantage of the slowdown to add a used piece of cutting equipment at a bargain price. He said he had seen in the past that there are opportunities to make big gains in sales coming out of an economic downturn, and he wants to be ready.
Kim A. Reynolds, chief executive of Markel Corp. in Plymouth Township, says he is optimistic despite the troubles of the automobile industry, which accounted for 60 percent of the manufacturer's sales last year.
Markel, which produces high-performance cable liner and fuel lines for automobiles, tubing for water purifiers, and coatings for telecommunications cables, cut back from round-the-clock operation seven days a week to five days a week.
After dialing back production and cutting about 40 of its roughly 170 employees at the end of last year, Markel regained profitability in the first quarter at a lower level of sales, helped by the fact its steadiest products are its most profitable, Reynolds said.
"Happily, I've brought back nine part-time and six full-time employees" to meet increased demand, Reynolds said. "People have exhausted inventories. They are doing something rather than nothing."
Markel, which has counted exports as an important part of its business since the 1980s, is benefiting from China's economic-stimulus efforts. It has a new product that is being used in the construction of China's new telecommunications network, Reynolds said.
Reynolds says that he feels good about what his company has been able to accomplish during difficult times but that he does not expect a return to where he was before last fall, when he was worried about finding more capacity.
He will be satisfied "if we operate at 75 or 80 percent of where we were," he said.
- Work-Sharing Program: A Great Cost-Saving Tool for a Reduced Work Week, Source: McCarthy Tetrault LLP - LinexLegal.com - London,UK.
CANADA - Many employers are considering reducing the number of working days/week by 20 percent or more. There are government-sponsored programs to facilitate such reductions while minimizing the financial impact for your employees. The *Service Canada Work-Sharing Program is one such cost-saving tool for employers.
- Times union takes a pay cut, AP via Boston Globe, A15.
[Thanks to avid Globe reader Kate Jurow for catching this story.]
NEW YORK - Union workers at The New York Times will accept a 5 percent pay cut through the end of the year to help the newspaper avert more layoffs.
The Newspaper Guild members approved the wage reductions by a vote of 377 to 36 in balloting completed last night, according to The New York Times's website.
Management plans to restore pay to its previous levels next year if the newspaper's advertising revenue rebounds.
Employees are receiving 10 days' paid vacation in return for the concession.
[So not only workweek reduction is happening anyway but not in the best way - workyear reduction dba vacation lengthening is also happening anyway - though of course a once-a-year adjustment is only 1/52 as effective at spreading the vanishing, yet-unrobotized private-sector employment as a once-a-week adjustment.]
The same terms have been in place for nonunion workers, including management, since April 1. The New York Times Co. hopes to save about $4.5 million in costs and hold onto 80 newsroom positions with the salary reduction.
- Hymer Motor-Home Demand to Falter Through 2010, Force Job Cuts, By Claudia Rach in Berlin,Germany -- Bloomberg.com.
Hymer AG, which has been making recreational vehicles since the 1930s, predicted demand for motor homes and trailers won’t improve for 18 months, forcing the German company to cut costs and reduce its workforce.
“The situation is strained,” Hermann Pfaff, the management board member responsible for finance and distribution, said in a telephone interview from Bad Waldsee, where the company is based. “We have to cut personnel costs.”
Hymer posted a net loss of 19.4 million euros ($25.9 million) for the first half of its fiscal year ending Feb. 28 after sales fell 28 percent to 320.8 million euros. The European caravan market shrank 20 percent in the past months, he said.
The economy of Europe, where Hymer makes 94 percent of its sales, will shrink 4 percent this year, according to the European Commission. The company predicts motor-home makers to sell 120,000 vehicles in Europe this year, compared with 191,000 last year as dealers run down inventories.
Hymer has reduced its workforce, including temporary staff, by 10 percent to about 3,150, Pfaff said. The company forecasts a second-half operating profit excluding one-time costs for job cuts after posting a loss of 21 million euros in the first six months. A third of factory employees are working shorter hours.
“We don’t expect unit sales to increase,” said Pfaff, one of Hymer’s two management board members. “They’ll stay at this level for the next 1 1/2 years. People have done cruises, flown and traveled everywhere. Now they want motor homes.”
The company’s vehicles cost between 35,000 euros and 200,000 euros, with the most popular model, the 674, priced between 80,000 euros and 90,000 euros, depending on equipment.
Hymer fell 30 cents, or 1.7 percent, to 17.20 euros as of 12:55 p.m. in Frankfurt trading, giving the company a market value of 68.8 million euros.
To contact the reporter on this story: Claudia Rach in Berlin at email@example.com
5/04/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Furloughs and unpaid time off create wage-and-hour problems, By Jonathan Hyman of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz PLL of Cleveland, Ohio (216) 736-7226 www.KJK.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, BusinessManagementDaily.com - Falls Church,VA,USA.
Flexible work schedules have been all the rage in businesses across America.
[No kidding. And specifically, shorter work schedules. It's happening anyway. If we systematized it, we could craft it into a sustainable solution.
Employers advertising themselves as “family-friendly” offered flextime, family leave, telecommuting and paid sick leave. When it comes to recruiting workers, those are great ways for an organization to differentiate itself from run-of-the-mill competitors.
But then the recession hit, yanking the economy—and unemployment figures—25 years into the past.
[No, 2009-1929= 80 years into the past. 25 years ago (2009-25=1984), we were still superficially doing fine and were just emerging from a much less compound-complex recession (no advanced global warming, no massively corrupted financial markets, no record consumer-corporate-government debt...) - today the problems are so huge and ubiquitous that we can't hide them any more - though TPTB (the powers that be) are certainly trying! Viz: " 'The recession will be officially over this year, but the recovery will be sluggish,' said Michael Gregory, a senior economist at BMO Markets in Toronto." from Bloomberg article "Jobless rate may be at 25-year high" in 5/04 Boston Globe, B6.]
Family-friendly practices have suddenly taken a back seat as struggling businesses focus on the bottom line. According to The Washington Post, some employees are so fearful of losing their jobs that they’re not taking time off to handle family responsibilities, believing that doing so could make them look less committed to work—and more expendable in a layoff.
Now employers are looking for other ways to give employees time off, albeit involuntarily. Family-friendly flexibility has been replaced by furloughs and forced shutdowns. Reduced work schedules help employers cut hours and shed costs.
The goal is to reduce payroll costs without having to lay off employees.
Furloughs and exempt employees
Generally, requiring nonexempt hourly employees to take involuntary leave doesn’t cause any problems for employers.
But when employers impose furloughs, forced shutdowns and reduced work schedules on exempt salaried employees in increments of other than a full week, it can jeopardize exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Section 13(a)(1) of the FLSA exempts from minimum wage and overtime pay “any employee employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity.” To qualify for one of those exemptions, an employee must, among other factors, receive a weekly salary of at least $455 per week.
[Well well, so there's a pay minimum for being regarded as 'exempt' from overtime premiums and supposedly 'management' level!]
The FLSA rules
According the U.S. Department of Labor:
“[a]n employee will be considered to be paid on a “salary basis” … if the employee regularly receives each pay period … a predetermined amount constituting all or part [=loophole?] of the employee’s compensation, which amount is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of the work performed …. An employee is not paid on a salary basis if deductions from the employee’s predetermined compensation are made for absences occasioned by the employer or by the operating requirements of the business. If the employee is ready, willing and able to work, deductions may not be made for time when work is not available.”
[Well, well. So our current legislative definition of 'exempt' discourages the ultimate sustainable solution = fluctuating adjustment of the workweek against unemployment, sales weakness or economy-wide investment weakness. Well, well. Just the same as our attachment of more and more benefits to "full time" employment, especially health insurance.]
In no event can an employer take any deductions from an exempt employee’s salary for full or partial-day absences occasioned by a lack of work. If an employee is ready, willing and able to work, deductions may not be made for time when work is not available.
Alternatively, however, deductions from an employee’s fixed salary that correspond to a reduction in hours in the normally scheduled workweek are permissible, as long as the salary remains above $455 per week.
[Huh? Sounds like doubletalk to us. "In no event" sounds inclusive of a weekly packaging of full or partial days to us.]
Advice: If salaried exempt employees are included in any alternative scheduling plans, pay careful attention to how the scheduling affects their pay.
Questions to ask
If you plan to mandate unpaid days off for exempt employees, pause and ask the following questions:
___Yes ___ No Is the proposed salary deduction going to be an increment of other than a whole week?
___Yes ___ No Is it occasioned by a lack of work or other operational needs of the business?
___Yes ___ No Is the employee ready, willing and able to work?
If you answer yes to each of these questions, then the cost-savings plan most likely changes that employee’s status from exempt to nonexempt.
In that case, the employee would become eligible for overtime on a going-forward basis, a change that could cost more than you were trying to save in the first place.
- BP Solar starts cutbacks early, by Rebecca McClay, Business Gazette via gazette.net - Gaithersburg,MD,USA.
BP Solar in Frederick, which announced last month that it would lay off 140 assembly line workers by the end of the year, is starting the process early this week by initiating a two-week shutdown.
Both the employees who will return and those whose temporary assignments will end May 18 will continue to receive regular paychecks, spokesman Tom Mueller said in an e-mail. The closure allows for a transition to a new work-week schedule that will run Monday through Friday, instead of the current round-the-clock, seven-day work week.
"Given the current period of soft demand for solar modules, BP Solar is taking steps to reduce inventory buildup from our global manufacturing operations," Mueller said. "As part of this global effort, we are revising shift schedules at Frederick and will drop from four shifts down to two shifts for the module assembly line."
BP Solar is planning to eventually close its module assembly operations but will continue silicon casting, wafering and cell manufacturing. The latter operations will continue through the temporary assembly line closure the next two weeks.
BP Solar, which also said it is slashing 480 jobs from its 575-employee facility in Spain, is trying to cut costs by 25 percent by the end of 2010. It expects to double manufacturing and sales this year compared with 2008.
In October, BP Solar halted its $97 million expansion in Frederick that was expected to create 70 jobs. The company recently said it would try to lease or sell the new, 140,000-square-foot building rather than install more manufacturing equipment.
- [some comic relief -]
How do i ask for shorter hours at work? by Adam J, Yahoo! Answers via answers.yahoo.com.
im workin 30 hours a week a spart time and want 20-25. how do i explain to my boss i want shorter hours?
Randi - Talk with him...
t pain - i would lie and say im taking classes in night school and could use more time to get my work done. just a thought.
5/03/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Surge in child support modifications - As unemployment rises, so does the number of cases being reassessed - Collections are up as the state garnishees more unemployment checks, and more from the middle class are seeking the state's help, By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times via latimes.com - CA,USA.
California's rising unemployment rate is driving a steep increase in child support cases, as the newly jobless appeal for increases in monthly payments or argue that they can no longer afford the amounts ordered by the court.
In Los Angeles County, about 450 new cases are filed each day, double the amount at this time last year. More than 3,000 calls come in daily -- up 25% -- increasingly from custodial parents asking child support staffers to crack down on deadbeats. The number of parents seeking help with child support modifications has tripled during the last month and a half, with some parents showing up at 5 a.m. to wait in line.
"Can we handle it? No," said L.A. County Child Support Services Director Steven J. Golightly.
Family court judges and commissioners are calling it the worst avalanche of new cases they have seen in 30 years, many involving laid-off workers who have struggled to find new jobs.
Paradoxically, higher unemployment rates have led to a slight rise in the amount of child support collected this fiscal year, in part because the state can easily garnishee unemployment checks.
As child support money taken out of payroll checks dropped by more than $20 million through the end of February, compared with the same period a year ago, money withheld from unemployment checks nearly doubled, rising to $64 million from $34 million.
Parents who once hired lawyers or handled child support privately are now going to courts or child support services for help, according to staff members.
"I have never seen the situation as bad as it is now," said Christine Reiser-Juick, lead attorney at the state-run Office of the Family Law Facilitator in Los Angeles County Superior Court's Central Civil West Courthouse, which helps parents who cannot afford to hire attorneys.
Reiser-Juick, a 10-year veteran of the system, said her staff can assist about 150 people a day and regularly have to turn away an additional 60 to 80. Many of the people they see are newly unable to afford their payments or to provide their children with health insurance, she said.
It appears to be a national trend. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in late March reported a 39% increase nationwide in the number of divorced spouses requesting changes to child support agreements.
At the Central Civil West Courthouse, benches outside 16th-floor family courtrooms were full of parents, some with children in tow.
Martha Padilla, 35, of Santa Fe Springs listened as her ex-husband pleaded with a judge not to raise his $758 monthly payments for their three children. Rogelio Gallegos, 40, a delivery truck driver, said his monthly pay was recently cut from $3,000 to $1,900, and he had a new wife and two other children to support. He wanted to pay less.
"I understand, sir, but having children means making sacrifices," Family Court Commissioner Nicholas Taubert said.
Padilla, a restaurant cashier, had asked for increased payments but offered to make do with the status quo, which she said she relies on to pay for after-school child care. Gallegos, holding his head in his hands, grudgingly agreed.
Two floors above them, dozens more parents waited for their names to be called for child support mediation.
Amador Rios, a mechanic, pays $225 a month to support his 11-year-old son. He came to ask for a reduction after his workweek was reduced to two days, lowering his weekly pay to $160.
"I earn very little, and I have to eat and buy gas," Rios, 43, said as he sat next to the windows, waiting for his name to be called. "There's no work. You go out and look, and they don't have it."
County child support attorneys used to postpone unemployed parents' cases for a few months until they found work, but that is no longer an option, they said.
"There's no guarantee they'll find anything," said Barbara Catlow, head attorney at the Central Civil West child support office.
Most of the cases Catlow sees involve blue-collar workers, but child support officials say they are seeing the same phenomenon in low- and high-income areas, urban and suburban. In Orange County, family courts received 722 requests for child support modification in February, compared with 518 during the same month last year. In the Bay Area county of San Mateo, modification requests were up 30% in February.
"They are either furloughed and they are working less hours, or they have become unemployed and they are trying to avoid accumulating that debt," said Iliana Rodriguez, director of San Mateo County's Department of Child Support Services.
In L.A. County, child support staff withheld 144% more in child support from unemployment checks in February than in the same month last year. The rise in collections from unemployment checks has offset other drops, at least so far. In March, L.A County collected $47.7 million in child support, about half of what was owed and a 2% increase from the same month last year.
Many custodial parents who are owed child support are on the swelling welfare rolls. When the state tracks down fathers and mothers who are delinquent in those cases, their monthly payments offset state aid already paid out to their families.
But there are also signs that more middle-class families are relying on child support to make ends meet. Typically, about 25% of families in L.A. County child support cases have never received government assistance. That rose to 34% in recent months.
In Orange and Ventura counties, the number of parents who had never received assistance and were referred by social services to child support offices increased 14% as of February, compared with the same period last year.
Child support officials said the increases underscore the needs of families who have fallen on hard times but still have resources that make them ineligible to receive welfare, food stamps or other aid. Getting child support owed to them is crucial, said Jennifer Coultas, a lawyer and special assistant to L.A. County's director of Child Support Services. "It's just really hard out there for families."
Coultas and other county child support officials are pushing for California to rethink its "fair share" formula for monthly child support payments owed by noncustodial parents. The guidelines, which take into account how much time children spend with each parent, work out to roughly 25% of the noncustodial parent's net income after state and local taxes for one child; 40% of net income for two children; and 50% of net income for three children. If a parent becomes unemployed, the payments may be adjusted based on new income -- the unemployment pay -- but only after an appeal to a judge for a modification.
Other states, such as New York, which is second only to California in child support collections, take both parents' income into consideration and allow judges to issue "poverty-level" child support orders if a parent becomes unemployed.
"Those states are quicker to respond to economic downturns," Golightly said.
In San Mateo County, Rodriguez, who also serves as president of the state Child Support Directors Assn., compares massive child support debts to foreclosed homes that people walk away from, unable to pay the mortgage.
"At some point, you set the bar too high and the person just feels defeated," she said.
But any attempt to change payment guidelines is likely to face strong opposition from mothers' groups. So far, state child support officials have not taken a position on whether changes should be made in light of the deep recession.
"We understand it's a difficult economic time, but we are focused on collecting child support and making sure those monies go to the individual it is owed to," California Department of Child Support Services spokeswoman T. Maria Caudill said. "Oftentimes, child support makes the difference between a family remaining economically self-sufficient and applying for aid."
- Singapore's strategy: Sops for cos to prevent lay-offs - Employees encouraged to upgrade skills during downturn, by Preeti Mehra, TheHinduBusinessLine.com - Chennai,India.
[Ah, 'sops' is not the word the word they're looking for. How about 'incentives' or 'subsidies' or 'compensation' or just 'help.' 'Sops' is too dismissive - of both the companies and the incentives themselves,]
Recently in Singapore If you can’t keep them, train them. And get an incentive for it. That’s the strategy corporates in Singapore are adopting in the face of increasing lay-offs in the manufacturing, banking and financial sectors as fallout of the recession in the West.
With factory production lines grinding to a halt and businesses in banks, airlines, printing and publishing slowing down, the Government is giving incentives to companies to retain staff and use the downturn period to upgrade skills and ready employees for the upturn.
This could hold lessons for most countries, including India, where job losses of about half a million in the organised sector were reported by the latest Labour Bureau estimates for September to December 2008.
Five months ago, Singapore rolled out SPUR (Skills Programme for Upgrading and Resilience) to help companies manage excess manpower and reduce retrenchment rates. Under the programme, laid off individuals can approach career centres to enhance skills or learn new ones in fields where job opportunities exist.
SPUR, run by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency in consultation with the country’s manpower ministry and largest trade unions and employee federations, has built the $600-million (Singapore dollar) scheme to cater to the needs of blue-collared workers and skilled professionals. Under the programme, companies are offered a higher absentee payroll subsidy for sending their employees for training programmes and a lower course fees. The subsidy offers companies a payment per employee for each hour the staff attends a training programme. The course fee for employees has also been slashed, making it an attractive proposition for corporates.
Companies who were planning to shed their staff are also resorting to a shorter workweek. For instance, companies that used to work six days a week are now making the workweek four or five days, with staff taking a 50 per cent cut in idle day salary or utilising the time for upgrading skills or retraining for another or additional jobs.
“I used to work with the shipping industry. With exports to the US and UK down, I was one of those laid off. Through SPUR, I retrained for my present job,” said a taxi driver.
He, however, said in this business too the last few months have been tough as food prices are still high and tourist arrivals are fewer.
Under SPUR, the programme for PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives, Technicians) has a number of conversion programmes which enable employees to switch to a range of new occupations where vacancies are available, such as registered nurses, occupational therapists, media professionals, property officers and even preschool teachers. Technically-qualified PMETs are also given industry specialised training for employment in the same industry.
For example, a finance industry professional can specialise in risk management or product control through various training institutes.
Customer service managers can work towards a diploma in tourism, while engineering professionals in the pharma and biologics sectors can train in pharmaceutical manufacturing, a sector in need of skilled professionals.
To make the courses even more viable, WDA announced that jobless citizens who join these courses would not have to wait to finish their training to receive a training allowance. They would start receiving a small amount when the course starts.
“This is so that the trainees are ensured of some cash to spend during their training period in this difficult period of their lives,” explained a trainer who has been involved in the exercise.
5/02/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Why Americans Should Work Less and Vacation More, by David Silverberg, DigitalJournal.com - Toronto,Ontario,Canada.
John de Graaf wants America to relax. Literally. Through his advocacy group
*Take Back Your Time, he is urging Americans to stop working long hours and politically mandate a paid vacation bill.
[John's still in there slugging, but he's sidelined himself a bit by refocusing from shorter workweek legislation to longer vacation legislation. Let's see how this plays out in his interview...]
Why is overwork damaging the U.S.? The statistics are sobering: the U.S. is one of the few industrialized countries that doesn't mandate paid vacation time. The number of Americans who said that they were going to take a vacation in the next six months is at a 30-year low, according to an April survey. And Americans average nine more weeks of labor per year than countries in Western Europe.
If Americans are overworked and vacation-starved, what's the fallout? Depression, many health care officials say. A 2004 World Health Organization and Harvard Medical School study placed the U.S. at the top of the list of depressed countries.
John de Graaf doesn't want to rest in his fight to give Americans the vacations they deserve. Ironically, he is tireless in advocating for vacation days as a mandatory requirement for all American employers. His Seattle-based group Take Back Your Time is a nonprofit dedicated to studying issues relating to overwork. They claim Americans want what TBYT are pushing for, but the feds aren't listening.
A July 2008 poll conducted by the group found that more than two-thirds of Americans would support the passage of a paid vacation law. de Graaf listened: He is working with a Congressman to consider national legislation requiring paid vacation time. He told DigitalJournal.com within the next month or so there should be an announcement about a paid vacation bill.
Why dedicate extracurricular efforts to such an issue? DigitalJournal.com spoke to de Graaf about his work to keep Americans from working overtime.
DigitalJournal.com: What do you see as the main problems when North Americans work long hours?
John de Graaf: Long working hours result in poorer health: Americans are nearly twice as likely to suffer from chronic disease in old age as are Europeans and we live shorter lives. In part this is a result of the stress of overwork. We are too tired from working to exercise, eat more fast foods, don't sleep enough and all those things make us number one in obesity. Long hours reduce time for families and friends, also key in improving health and building community. Long hours mean less time for environmental stewardship, we use more throwaways and convenience products for example...The negative impacts of our long working hours culture are huge.
DigitalJournal.com: Americans are supposedly working five weeks longer than they did in 1976. What do you attribute that to?
de Graaf: There are arguments about that, but the work week has crept up in length by as much as half a percent a year and vacations are now shorter, where they are given at all.
In Washington State where I live, the percentage of companies providing paid vacation time dropped from 73% in 2007 to 62% in 2008 - 11% in one year. That's probably true nationally, although I don't have data for that. Moreover, families now virtually all have two breadwinners so family work time has actually increased by 700 hours annually, or roughly 13 to 17 weeks. Downsizing in the 80s also led to longer hours, and it's not just long hours; people are now expected to work faster and jobs are more demanding and stressful.
DigitalJournal.com: You are asking for a shorter work week. What benefits, physical and mental, would that offer to the average American worker?
de Graaf: We'd see health improvements; time to be active citizens by rebuilding community ...strengthening families, impacting the environment less. One study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that by reducing our work hours to European levels, we'd reduce our energy use and carbon footprint by up to 25%. There are almost too many benefits to mention.
DigitalJournal.com: In this recession, many people might consider working even more in order to make ends meet. Is that a viable solution? What would you recommend?
de Graaf: This is self-defeating ultimately. By getting more and more stressed, people will have greater health problems, more health costs. It would be far better for people to demand that layoffs be reduced by shortening and sharing working hours as President Obama suggested in his inaugural address... We need policies that make for a more balanced life, as, for the most part, exist in every other industrial country--paid family leave, paid sick leave, especially important when you have potential pandemics like swine flu, paid vacation time, limits on mandatory overtime, increases in the minimum wage, a more fair and progressive tax system, hourly pay parity for part-time workers, pay equity for women, universal health care that is not tied to the job...It's time for a change and I sense that the American people -- the right-wing noise machine excepted -- understand that.
[John switched from a workweek reduction focus to a longer vacation focus because he thought it was more of a political moment for more vacation than less workweek. He didn't bargain for the economic crisis and workweek reduction popping up all over the place spontaneously. It's unfortunate, cuz he has a lot of momentum, and the distraction onto vacations complicates and blunts his message, as the above interview shows. With workweek reduction happening anyway spontaneously, John is missing a huge opportunity to accelerate human progress. It's just plain fact that workweek reduction 52 times a year has a lot more sharing and healing potential in the economic crisis than longer vacations once or twice a year. Maybe John will eventually switch back to shorter workweeks - wuddaya say, John?]
- Keene State Works To Retain Students, Cut Costs - [Shorter work week for staff,] Sports Event Cuts...Under Consideration, WMUR.com - Manchester,NH,USA.
KEENE, N.H. -- Keene State College continues working to cut costs and is putting in extra effort to ensure students accepted for next fall actually show up.
College officials briefed faculty and staff on Friday about their financial situation.
President Helen Giles-Gee said the college set a target of 1,250 new students and wants to make sure that number, and the tuition income the students represent, sticks. The Keene Sentinel reported that the college is calling accepted students who haven't put down a deposit and plans to stay closer in touch through the summer.
She said the college also continues working to control costs and is considering more than 100 suggestions, including non-faculty furloughs, a shorter work week for staff, cutting some sports events and laying off administrators.
5/01/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Obama, reform and the role of the left, by Sam Webb, People's Weekly World via pww.org - USA.
After the first, perhaps over analyzed, hundred days of the Obama administration, it is fair to say that President Obama is a reformer and we are entering an era of reforms, possibly radical reforms.
Some on the left (ignoring the right wing talk shows and their fantastic claims about Obama’s socialist pedigree) mockingly dismiss the new president and his reform inclinations, saying that his main mission is merely to save capitalism. Even if that is true, and there is no reason to doubt it, what does it tell us — that he is neither a politician of the left nor an advocate of socialism? Well, we already knew that.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, too, had no aspirations to change the foundations of capitalist society. But he realized that in order to preserve capitalism it had to be modified (and, yes, it can be modified), and he had to respond to the anger and yearnings of millions of Americans caught in the web of a seemingly intractable economic depression.
Given the contemporary economic crisis, Obama appears to be of a similar mind, though he comes to the White House with deeper democratic and reform sensibilities than FDR.
So far, Obama’s presidency has not only broken decisively from the right-wing extremist policies of the Bush administration, but has also taken measures domestically and internationally that go in a progressive direction.
Whether this continues and takes on a consistently progressive, pro-people, radical reform character isn’t a sure bet, however. Much like with the New Deal of the 1930s, it will be the outcome of contested and fluid process stretching over time, taking multiple forms, and pivoting around the expansion of citizenship rights (socialized health care, for example) and the reconfiguration of the role of government to the advantage of working people.
Socialism may be an objective necessity for our country, an appealing idea to many ordinary Americans (a recent Rasmussen poll found that 20 percent favored socialism over capitalism and another 27 percent were unsure which was better), and a vision that we on the left want to vigorously popularize, but it isn’t yet on the immediate political agenda — clearly, neither the current balance of forces nor the thinking of millions of Americans is at that point.
We are still in a democratic, increasingly anti-corporate, phase of struggle. In the course of this, political conditions could mature over time to the point where more advanced solutions – such as military conversion to peacetime and green production, a shorter work week, a “war” on poverty and inequality, public democratic ownership of critical economic sectors, and, depending on the dialectics of struggle, socialism – come to the fore of the people’s agenda.
[Oh spare us the tired ineffectual lefty rhetoric. What's our definition? The right is no controls and no jobs (behold the present). The left is any controls and makework, resulting in ecohostile overproduction and overconsumption and a burgeoning maximum of stifling detailed controls. Our candidate? Timesizing, which is a stable minimum of liberating generalized controls, theoretically just one - but we've got it down to two anyway = (1) automatically limit the workweek according to either (A) the underemployment rate or (B) the GDP or (C) sales, for example, if sales are too low, TRIM THE WORKWEEK to spread the vanishing yet-unautomated market-demanded employment around to reactivate more potential but currently un/under-employed/waged consumers - keep government/taxpayers OUT of being the employer-charity-corporaterescuer of last resort and restore markets for the vast robotized productivity that investors need to invest in sustainably - and (2) automatically convert overtime and overwork into hiring and if necessary, training.]
But that is ahead of us. Currently, the level of mobilization of the diverse coalition that elected Obama doesn’t match what is necessary to win his administration’s immediate legislative and political agenda, let alone more far-reaching reforms.
A favorable alignment of forces exists, to be sure. But political majorities are consequential only to the degree that they are an active and organized element in the political process.
Moreover, the opposition is formidable. Right-wing Republicans experienced a crushing defeat, but no one should write them off; they have consolidated their grip on the Republican Party, are well funded, and are clever at exploiting popular grievances and resentments.
Finance capital will attempt to minimize losses to its balance sheet, rob the public till where it can, and restructure the regulatory environment along lines that favor speculation and a casino economy.
Other powerful sections of big capital – energy, military, health care, pharmaceutical and other giants of corporate America – will also fiercely resist measures that collide with their political and economic interests.
Finally, there are political groupings of considerable influence in the administration and the Democratic Party who, while supporting Obama, will use their influence to cut down on the sweep and anti-corporate character of his initiatives.
Thus, the struggle of the nation’s progressive majority — the working class, the racially oppressed, women, young people and others — is two-sided.
On the one hand, it has to battle stop-at-nothing right-wing extremists and their backers who are intent on defeating Obama and the people’s coalition that supports him.
On the other hand, it has to struggle (but in a constructive, unifying way) within the multi-class coalition that Obama leads, to put their essential pro-working-class and democratic stamp on the reform process and the political direction of the country.
And herein lies the role of the left. Its main task, as it has been throughout our country’s history, is to assist in reassembling, activating, uniting and giving a voice to common demands that unite this broad majority as well as draw in other people who didn’t vote for Obama.
The left's political analysis, solutions to today's pressing crisis and a vision of socialism, rooted in a democratic ethos and practices, and not tied to a universal “model” imported from the 20th century, will receive a fair and favorable hearing from millions of Americans to the degree that left activists are active participants in the main labor and people’s organizations struggling for vital reforms today — jobs, health care, retirement security, quality public education, equality and fairness, immigration reform, a foreign policy of peace and cooperation, and a livable environment and sustainable economy.
Those who narrow down the role of the left to simply being a critic of every move of the Obama administration and/or insist on left demands as the only basis of broad unity limit the left’s capacity to be a part of a much larger coalition that could make America “a more perfect union.”
Sam Webb (email@example.com) is national chair of the Communist Party USA, founded in Chicago in 1919. Before being elected to that post, he served as the Communist Party state organizer in Michigan from 1978 to 1988. He received a master’s in economics from the University of Connecticut.
- Alcoa’s Quebec Workers Agree to Reduce Working Hours (Update3), By Rob Delaney and Frederic Tomesco, Bloomberg.com - USA.
Alcoa Inc., the largest U.S. aluminum producer, reached an agreement with unionized employees at the Becancour smelter in Quebec to reduce hours worked in exchange for keeping all production lines running.
Employees voted for a three-year contract that gives them salary increases and other benefits while reducing their hours by 15 percent, the United Steelworkers said today in a statement. The accord was supported by 93 percent of the 866 workers who voted, the union said.
The agreement averts a shutdown of one of three aluminum production lines at Becancour, which is 75 percent owned by New York-based Alcoa. The company said on April 13 that it might shut one line, or about 136,000 metric tons of annual output, by the end of April without an agreement to cut labor costs by 15 percent. Rio Tinto Group, based in London, owns the rest of the plant.
The accord, effective July 1, gives workers a 1.9 percent salary increase for the first year, 2.5 percent in the second year and 3.3 percent in the 16 months beginning July 1, 2011, union spokesman James Maloney said in a telephone interview.
The contract will be voided and employees will revert to a 40-hour work week if market conditions worsen and Alcoa is forced to shut the production line, Maloney said. If that occurs, the union expects to negotiate with Alcoa over workforce reductions, he said.
Global Production Cuts
About 20 percent of Alcoa’s global production has been cut since aluminum prices began falling last year. The company started negotiating with about 3,500 unionized workers in Canada last month to reduce payroll costs by 15 percent.
“We’re happy we were able to get a new contract as well as achieve the cost reductions,” Kevin Lowery, an Alcoa spokesman, said in a telephone interview.
Alcoa rose 62 cents, or 6.8 percent, to $9.69 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have fallen 14 percent this year.
Aluminum for delivery in three months has declined 46 percent in the past year on the London Metal Exchange.
To contact the reporters responsible for this story: Rob Delaney in Toronto at firstname.lastname@example.org; Frederic Tomesco at email@example.com.
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