Is It Time For An Alt Income Strategy?

Last year’s presidential election showed the impact of the loss of jobs the country has experienced.  Manufacturing plants that once employed many workers have disappeared or employ fewer people because of technology.  That has left many angry and scared especially as some  have had to resort to lower paying jobs or retraining or no job.

Older workers, lucky enough to receive longer unemployment benefits, must return to school.  For example, one worker is 63 1/2.  He’ll receive unemployment for 2 years while he attends school but by the time he’s finished, he’ll be at retirement age.

It also isn’t just about workers struggling. Some states, too, have struggled to meet their obligations to unemployment systems.

Are there some alternatives that might alleviate some of the fear and anger or that doesn’t have all the restrictions or requirements of some public assistance systems?  Is it time to consider a different income system?  It turns out there are a couple of alternatives and we’re going to look at one of them this week.

The alternative we’re looking at this week is called universal basic income, or UBI.  A universal basic income plan provides everyone, no matter what their income is,  with a certain amount of money just to cover basic necessities.  It would eliminate the need for unemployment as well as welfare and other social programs.  This idea is being floated not just in this country but around the world.

It also isn’t a new idea.  It has some history in this country.  It was first introduced in 1797 by Thomas Paine, much later in the 1960s by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,  and by the economist, Milton Friedman. Dr. King believed it would help eliminate poverty and Milton Friedman believed it would eliminate citizens from having to pay taxes. During the Nixon administration, it had some bipartisan support.  In fact, legislation for the program passed the U.S. House of Representatives but died in the Senate and has never been resurrected until recently.

Although a referendum on universal basic income lost in Switzerland last June, it hasn’t stopped others from trying.  Recognizing the anger over the loss of jobs and realizing  much of the job loss is coming from automation, Silicon Valley wants to help people with an experiment in universal basic income.  One of the leading innovation companies will provide 100 families with a basic income for a period of six months to a year. In another pilot program,  Ontario, Canada, will begin this spring on its own version of universal basic income.  It will be the first North American experiment on UBI.  Every citizen is to receive an income of $1,320 every month.  Those with disabilities will receive additional amounts.  The project will last three years.  Other countries are also testing similar projects, too.  Finland, the Netherlands, Scotland, Kenya, India and other countries are either looking at UBI or trying it as unemployment rises and poverty continues to be a problem.

Canada has tried UBI in the past so there is some information to tell how it can work but the info is limited.  A small city in the province of Manitoba tried it in the ’70s.  There is enough information to say the experiment worked. People did continue to work despite receiving a monthly check.  Basic income was a specific amount and any working income made was calculated into the amount of basic income received. One person who participated said it felt good to know money was always coming in especially when her husband had an unexpected medical condition in the middle of the pilot.  Even though that family had medical issues,  available data showed the overall health status of the community improved.

Critics of UBI say it costs too much.  They’re also concerned it could lower the incentive to work or complicate a sense of need or purpose derived from going to work every day.  While UBI has received bipartisan support in the past, it is mostly supported now by conservatives.  Those opposed to UBI say there should be more focus on jobs, increasing wages, social programs for those who need assistance, provide more jobs for those who work at those social programs, encourage unions, and help for those who provide care for family members.  Some say there have been some experiments with a system  such as UBI and they didn’t work.  The other problem in the United States is healthcare.  In many of the other countries experimenting with UBI healthcare is provided at little or  no cost.  Healthcare in the U. S., of course,  is still a major cost for many.

Proponents of UBI, though,  also stress other important considerations.   There is more spending going on which helps the economy improve because people now have a safety net.  It could also improve wages because of spending increasing.  UBI does not have the restrictions as to how the money should be spent as there are with welfare benefits.

In addition, UBI helps to reduce or even eliminate the stigma of receiving government benefits such as unemployment and welfare.  Having worked with worker adjustment committees during layoffs or closures, many people are ashamed or humiliated because they lost their job through no fault of their own so it’s even more of a humiliation for the need to receive assistance.

UBI may or may not work but it might put people on a more level playing field.  It may help to reduce some anger as people complain about others receiving government benefits as they would receive a payment, too.  It also may provide some dignity and security for those who can’t find work or work that pays so little it’s demeaning.  What are your thoughts?

In a few weeks, we’ll look at another alternative

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UPDATE: Trends in Labor-Management Relations, 2017 – Part Two

A couple of weeks ago we began to take a look at some of the trends we see coming in 2017 for labor-management relations and collective bargaining. This time we want to continue to look at these issues and the impact they could have on labor and management.

Union membership will continue to decline, but it may be near its low point. In 2016, overall union membership declined to fewer than 11% of the workforce. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union membership in Ohio rose to 12.4% (http://radio.wosu.org/post/ohio-union-membership-grew-slightly-2016).

The pressures on unions we have discussed here will continue to negatively impact their growth, membership, and influence. However, if employment increases due to the return of jobs or increases in spending on the infrastructure, some of the jobs will be in organized labor. As workers realize the difficulty not having a strong union poses for them, unions may also see and upswing.

Unemployment will slowly continue to decrease, but many of the jobs lost in and following the recession will never return. The good news is more people are working than last year at this time. Employers added 156,000 jobs, which shows that moderate hiring remains sustainable 7½ years after the recovery from the Great Recession began (http://www.postandcourier.com/business/obama-s-final-jobs-report-big-pay-gain-slower-hiring/article_4c1d63ee-d45a-11e6-9bb8-bf89f9c4d3ba.html).

Since 2010, the U.S. economy has produced more than 14 million jobs, increasing payrolls by $5.7 million over the level before the recession hit in 2007. (http://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/18/obamas-record-on-jobs-versus-five-other-presidents.html)

In December, 2016, Ohio added 10,300 jobs (http://ohiolmi.com/ces/LMR.pdf). However, during 2016, manufacturing employment dropped 0.4%.

Unfortunately, the outlook for many of the types of jobs lost during the recession is not as positive. In some cases, endangered industries such as coal are unlikely to ever return to the pre-recession employment levels. The next two trends have the potential to negatively impact employment.

Increases in productivity may inhibit the return of jobs lost in the recession. Declines in manufacturing employment are often attributed to jobs leaving the country to offshore locations. Many assume forcing employers to return these jobs to the United States will restore the jobs and increase employment. In our 2014 article, we noted downsizing forced the remaining workers to increase productivity. Fewer workers were needed to sustain production. Jobs lost as a result are unlikely to return.

Automation will become an increasing issue in the workplace and place new pressures on labor and management and in negotiations. A new threat is emerging to impact employment: Automation. The increased use of technology and robotics can reduce the need for human workers. While some people believe jobs lost to automation will be replaced by those designing and maintaining the new machines, this is highly unlikely, If automation did not result in cost savings, it would not be implemented. Most of the savings come directly from lost positions and declines in wages.

A study by the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University reported 88% of factory jobs losses are actually attributable to technological change and automation rather than international trade (http://conexus.cberdata.org/files/MfgReality.pdf).

The implementation of new automation is beginning to impact negotiations. Ken Riley, president of the International Longshoremen’s Association Local No. 1422, said he’ll make automation a key issue when the local negotiates a new contract for the roughly 1,200 members who load and unload cargo at the Port of Charleston, SC. He stated, “New technology means you’re introducing something that will help me do my job more efficiently. Automation means you’re eliminating my job.” (http://www.postandcourier.com/business/automation-negotiation-ila-leader-riley-says-technology-at-port-of/article_b54e5414-d828-11e6-9b34-5f3283622b51.html) On the national scale, ILA president Harold Daggett said automation “will dominate” contract talks.

The minimum wage will increase slowly through state and local initiatives, but increases at the federal level are unlikely. There is little to make us believe the Republican controlled government in Washington is likely to increase the minimum wage, and some of their leaders have called for its elimination entirely. Republican controlled legislatures in Ohio and other areas have made it more difficult for municipalities to enact increases in the minimum wage. The “Fight for $15” will undoubtedly continue, but it is unlikely to see much success.

While more options for communications exist, it has become increasingly more difficult to really communicate. We live in an age when we carry devices that give us access to virtually any information we need. We can send and receive messages and get feedback almost instantly. However, these devices can block real communications.

Have you ever walked into a meeting only to see people with their faces buried in their phones and tablets? If you want to ask someone a question, do you go to them and ask or do you email or text? The ability to take the easy road replaces face-to-face communications and increases the likelihood of miscommunications.

Effective communications remains a barrier between labor and management. The trend for increased use of electronic communications is likely to continue to grow in spite of the problems it can create. Issues related to social media policies and use will continue to be problematic for both labor and management.

The need for employee engagement continues to grow. The difficulty communicating discussed in the last section make employee engagement even more important. Making real systemic change requires people to work together, get the information they need, and discuss possible outcomes. We believe the need to involve employees from all levels as we try to improve workplaces will become even more significant.

These are only some of the potential trends facing labor and management today. If you or your organization would like assistance in planning strategies to deal with them, contact CALMC. We would also like to hear your ideas on these or other trends, so please comment on this article or contact us directly.

 

Posted in CALMC, Change Management, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, Communications, Employee Engagement, Employee Involvement, Job Retention, Managing Change, Systemic change | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Privatizing and Contracting Out – Do They Work?

This week’s blog looks at the effect and impact privatization and contracting out has on organizations, citizens and, employees.

Privatize is when an organization from the private sector is hired to do the job a public or government entity has done.  It could be the entire organization or maybe segments of it.  Contracting out is primarily the same but it can occur in both the private sector or public sector.  It, too, is when an outside entity comes into an organization and performs specified work.  It could be new or existing work.  Many times, and more recently, contracting out has been done through temporary placement agencies.

From a historical perspective, the government’s role increased following the Great Depression.  The private sector was devastated by the financial calamity and government had to preside in order to take care of citizens.  This continued up to the 1970s and then a new trend started.  Countries other than the U. S. started to look at privatizing services that previously had been public.  By the time Ronald Regan became president, the trend extended to the U. S.  Milton Friedman, an economist of the time, believed privatization could help with budgets, eliminate special interests from taking over, help with government inefficiency and just provide overall better management to government services.

But according to Harvard Business Review, the private sector doesn’t always live up to its role or purpose of providing profits or returns for shareholders.  They write there are many mergers and acquisitions that occur within the private sector that are not successful.  While managers are supposed to be looking out for improving services or products and shareholders’ interests, HBR says, that may not happen.   Once the merger or acquisition has been completed the only outcomes may be lower profits, if that, and employee layoffs.  There is no guarantee of  a happy ending for anybody – employees or shareholders.

HBR also brings up other concerns with privatization. Will the fees of some privatized services be increased for profit motives and become too expensive for citizens?   Or what about issues other than money, like safety concerns, will safety be weakened when profits are the motive?

About three years ago, the state of West Virginia suffered a horrible water crisis.  A private company, American Water, managed, and still does,  the water system for some West Virginia citizens.  For several days citizens were without water because of  a large chemical leak that had infiltrated the water system.  That same company is now asking citizens for its sixth rate increase in less than 10 years.  Rate increases have increased the profit margin for this company to make them the fourth most expensive water system in the U. S.   This experience has prompted citizens to reconsider private sector management of the water system.  They are now looking at putting the water system back under control of the public sector.   As one member of a local city council said  the well-being of citizens will be placed above profits.

On the other hand, the Flint water crisis appears to be the fault of both the private sector and public sector.  Lawsuits have been filed against two companies for not doing what they were supposed to do and public sector individuals have been criminally charged for various wrongdoings.

What is the impact on employees when privatization or contracting out occurs in an organization whether it be private sector or public sector?

Several years ago, we at CALMC had the opportunity of working with a very good labor-management committee from a public sector agency formed to look at contracting out, or privatizing, a segment of work  the agency managed.  The union asked management if they could address this issue together which management agreed.  Both sides started the process with an open mind.  Neither side was starting out with a specific solution.  Management did a great job of providing the committee with the financial information needed to help make the decision.  The union provided an individual who was knowledgeable about business and who could help both sides with the decision.  After several meetings, both sides determined it was better to privatize the work.  The union realized they could not compete. Both sides did agree, though, there needed to be agency oversight of the work so citizens’ needs would be met.

In a study published in 2002 by the Upjohn Institute on contracting out in both the private and public sectors, it tells about the impact on employees, primarily low-skilled workers.  They provided both the good and bad impact of contracting out from auto supplier companies, hospitals and schools.  We look at a few examples from the study and none of these are to make a determination on privatization or contracting out.  It is merely to show the impact to the organization and to both regular employees and those being employed through contracting out efforts.

Contracting out in both the auto supplier organizations and the hospitals was sometimes done through the use of temp agencies.  Both the auto supplier companies and hospitals were being pressured to keep costs down.  Sometimes it brought good results, sometimes there were problems.

Many of the managers from the auto supplier organizations thought the use of temp workers did help contain costs.  In unionized shops, the temp workers could only be used for a certain length of time.  The pay of the temp workers would be the same as regular workers but there were no benefits for them as there were for regular workers.  It also resolved the problem of paying overtime to regular workers.

In non-union shops, the story was a little different.  One auto supplier paid higher wages to regular workers and less wages to  temp workers.  In some of the shops, the quality of work was not good because managers thought the temp workers were not committed to the organization.   Managers wondered if temp workers actually did save money because of the re-work that needed to be done.  Some regular workers ended up supervising the temp workers because of the quality problem.  Even though the auto suppliers would hire some of the temp workers for permanent work, the temp workers didn’t always stay.  They couldn’t wait until the company hired which caused additional training costs.

The hospitals had issues, too, hiring temp workers.  In order to hire qualified help, one hospital had to hire workers at higher wages than regular workers.  When regular workers learned about it, they were not happy and it caused serious problems for the hospitals.  Regular workers resented the temps being paid higher wages and it also lowered morale.  Not all hospitals followed that practice.  Many of them paid the same rate of pay as the regular employees received but without benefits.   Some hospitals also  paid overtime to regular employees when they were short staffed.  Other hospitals hired aides with less skill at lower wages instead of hiring additional nurses.

Schools, too, have been forced to lower their costs.  Both schools and hospitals focused on contracting out food and janitorial services.  Food services were usually national organizations with the experience and staff to provide quality food at less cost than the schools or hospitals.  Many  times it would be the management staff that would be laid off.  The food service companies would bring in their own management and the staff would be employees of the school district or hospital.  This made it very awkward for the employees.  The new management would change job descriptions which sometimes meant more work than what was previously done or maybe the manager wasn’t happy with employees which led to discipline or termination.  Some felt there were too many employees and reduced staffing through attrition.

When entire departments were privatized or contracted out, employees’ wages and benefits were less.  There was one example when a school district contracted out a segment of work, they demanded the wages and benefits of the employees stay the same.  It was noted that new employees had much lower wages and benefits.

The League of Women Voters cites some other disadvantages of privatization.  They include issues related to  integrity and administration and possible corruption or interference by others to do harm.  However, this does not mean privatizing or contracting out is bad.  What is important is  how it is done and how it is managed.

When privatizing or contracting out is being considered, it is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  As noted in the examples, it can have some very serious consequences for the organization, employees, and customers or citizens.  It is much better when labor and management look at the situation just as the committee did we worked with and is cited above.  Each side brings a different perspective but both sides need to look at the interests of all stakeholders including citizens or customers, consider different options, and make sure ALL information is available so good decisions can be made.  It also is essential to go back and review the services that have been privatized or contracted out to make sure they are still in the best interest of the organization, the employees and the customers or citizens.

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UPDATE: Trends in Labor-Management Relations, 2017 – Part One

The most popular post on our blog in 2016 dealt with trends in Labor-Management relations and collective bargaining. Since its publication in March 2004 it has been one of the most often read articles every year.

It is time to update the article. This week, let’s take a look at some of the current trends we see in labor-management relations. We will continue to examine the trends in an upcoming blog post.

An increase in real wages was seen in 2016 and should continue in 2017. Hourly pay jumped 2.9 percent from a year earlier. Increased hiring made it more difficult for some employers to find workers, forcing some businesses to pay more to attract and retain employees. As a result, paychecks rose in December at the fastest pace in more than seven years. (http://www.postandcourier.com/business/obama-s-final-jobs-report-big-pay-gain-slower-hiring/article_4c1d63ee-d45a-11e6-9bb8-bf89f9c4d3ba.html). In the public sector in Ohio, negotiated wages rose 2.02% in 2015, the highest rate since 2009 (http://www.serb.state.oh.us/sections/research/reports/Wage_Settlement_2015.pdf).

Combined with a low rate of inflation, these gains resulted in one of the first increases in real wages in years (although it was only 0.8%) (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/realer.pdf). These pressures should continue to result in wage growth in 2017, although it is likely to be small.

The pressure for “Right to Work” will expand. Since the original article in 2014, many states have enacted do called “Right to Work” legislation. While it is not the purpose of this article to discuss the reasoning behind these laws or their impact on workers, we believe these attacks on unions will increase in 2017.

Labor relations will become more contentious. In spite of the obvious advantages of labor-management cooperation we have discussed in numerous posts, it is likely cooperation will be more difficult in 2017. Emboldened by political victories and declining labor membership, those favoring adversarial labor-management relationships are likely to act in a more strident manner. This has the potential to do long-term damage to workplace relationships.

Contract negotiations will become more difficult. As labor relations become more difficult, declining union strength resulting from right to work laws and decreases in the unionized workforce may also embolden management to take a harder line against unions and their members and seek concessions from them. This could threaten contract terms members have assumed would always remain in their agreements.

For example, defined benefit pension plans continue to disappear from the workplace, something that would have been viewed as unfeasible 20 years ago. They have been replaced by “defined contribution plans”, which limit the expense to employers while placing worker pensions at the mercy of the fluctuations of the stock market. Other provisions, such as health benefits, workplace protections, or single salary structures will also be under attack.

Worker gains resulting from executive orders by President Obama are in jeopardy.  Since Congress was unwilling to consider workplace reforms proposed by President Obama, he issued executive orders to implement many of his ideas. “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need,” he told his Cabinet members. “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone.”

He issued orders to raise the minimum wage for workers under federal contracts and guarantee the, pad sick leave. He changed overtime rules to guarantee more workers the right to receive time and a half pay when they work over 40 hours in a week. The administration also took steps to protect retirement savings from financial advisors who charge large fees or direct investments into plans that favored the advisor over the investor. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/barack-obama-workplace-rules_us_586bfbfbe4b0d9a5945cc204?kgq6icoea4lwyiudi)

Any gain workers made through executive orders is in jeopardy due to the change in administration. President Trump has already begun to dismantle many of these orders, and more are likely to come. As a result, workers will be hurt.

The National Labor Relations Board will become more business-friendly. The tone of the NLRB swings from labor to businesses whenever the administration changes from Democratic to Republican. President Trump is likely to appoint more conservative members to the NLRB. It is likely to be string or summer before he makes his nominations to fill vacancies on the Board. Some even speculate he will make no appointments at all, causing the NLRB to be unable to achieve a quorum and make any decisions. Either way, Obama administration efforts such as changes in union election procedures and the ability for unions to organize could be in jeopardy.

In an upcoming blog we will continue to look at current labor-management and collective bargaining trends, such as unemployment, automation, the minimum wage, and communications. In the meantime, we would like to hear your thoughts on these trends or others you see coming in 2017 and beyond.

Posted in CALMC, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, Communications, Conflict Resolution, Employee Engagement, Employee Involvement, Job Retention, Problem Solving, Public Sector, Right to Organize, Systemic change | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Jobs Dilemma Facing President Trump

On Friday, the 45th U. S. President was sworn in.  Over and over in his campaign speeches across America, Donald Trump promised to bring back jobs.  He won by a narrow margin from three primary states in the rust belt and those that voted for him expect the  new president to deliver.  These areas saw many jobs leave and it was devastating to people living in these communities.  Not only do they want jobs but they  want good-paying jobs.  Is that possible?

The NPR show, Marketplace, using Erie, PA, as an example of a rust belt town, asked community experts in job planning  what they thought.  Just as others have said, one member of the community said technology has reduced the number of jobs needed in manufacturing.  He also said it’s better to offer training assistance so people can learn more about technology.  Another community member, who works in helping people find jobs or learn new skills, said they’re not always sure whether to train older workers near retirement in new skills or help them find a job in a factory.

President Trump has said trade deals have been bad for American workers.  What about them?  Have they been bad for workers?  The problem with trade deals is they can hurt consumers which eventually will hurt workers according to The Brookings Institute.  If tariffs, which President Trump has suggested, are placed on imports than those additional costs associated with the tariffs can be passed on to the consumer.  American products, they say, are not necessarily as competitive as those manufactured in other countries.  If products are made in the U. S., it still can hurt consumers because manufacturers here can raise their prices which could cause less product to be sold and lay off workers.

But  according to the Economic Policy Institute, the lack of tariffs on foreign countries  hurts American workers because some countries slash currency or don’t stick to trade policies which end up costing jobs.  Trade deficits are created when the U. S. isn’t exporting as much as it is importing and that has been a problem impacting American manufacturing.  EPI cites the trade agreement with Korea.  The U.S. has seen an increase in imports from Korea since 2012 of almost 10% but the exports to Korea has reduced almost 8%.  That has resulted in about a 60% trade deficit or more than 65,000 jobs.

There’s also another way to look at this jobs dilemma.  An article in The Atlantic,  describes an era some Americans  want to return to.  It was a time when jobs were plentiful for men.  World War II was over and so was the Korean War.  Families were growing.  Purchasing a home or buying other things didn’t cost much.   Jobs for men, the article stated, was over 80% employment. People felt good.  They were comfortable and happy.

It also was a peak time for unions.  Ike was president and under the 1956 Republican platform it encouraged union activism.  During that time, one out of three households was a union household.  Today, unions are not as prevalent in households.  Is there a correlation here?  Wages have been lower, jobs have been lost.  People are unhappy.   As we previously have blogged, when wages in unionized organizations increase, it impacts wages of non-unionized organizations.

But it was it a good time for everybody?  The 1950s was a time of pre-civil rights.  Jim Crow laws were alive and well.  Some people hid in the shadows fearful of being found out.  Women were sometimes chastised for working outside the home and not being home with children.  In the 1950s, there were times it seemed like we lived in a plastic world instead recognizing the reality of life.  Some of the experts say people are afraid today of all the changes from that plastic 1950s world and that’s why they crave so to go back.  President Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” relates some to that desire to go back.

How will President Trump work on jobs and wages with unions? Although we read and hear wages are increasing, what will the Trump presidency do for wages?  Will they increase as President Trump has promised, or will they stagnate?

Recently, President Elect Trump met with Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO.  Apparently, Trump staffers wanted the two to meet since many of Trump supporters were union members.  While Trumka  supported Hillary Clinton during the campaign, he tweeted they had a good meeting which lasted approximately an hour and a half.  He also posted a picture of their meeting.

President Trump spoke about the shuttered factories and layoffs and there are those out there who want those good-paying manufacturing jobs to come back.  That may happen but that doesn’t mean, nor has it ever meant,  they are the only jobs that provide good incomes!  There are others and they are found all over including the rust belt states that elected President Trump!

In previous blogs, we have identified apprenticeship jobs.  These jobs pay as well if not better than manufacturing.  Not only do they pay well but they provide free education.  An apprentice will work and go to school at the same time.  It’s not an easy program but if a worker is looking for something more than $10 an hour jobs, this may be it.

These jobs also provide workers with continuous training so they stay updated on their skills so they don’t have to worry about not having enough skill to keep their job.  Even though skilled trades jobs have been around forever, they’re in demand now! Again, as President Trump has said, infrastructure needs to be improved and this may be a good way to use those skilled trade jobs.

CNN over a year ago reported on the shortage of skilled trade jobs.  They reported how these jobs can help all kinds of workers whether they be the older worker who lost their job through a layoff, or the veteran coming back from a tour of duty, or the single mother trying to support her family.

Apprenticeship jobs are definitely a way to have that comfortable, secure way of life Americans dream about.    Here’s a link of the benefits for the central Ohio electrical apprenticeship.  Many apprenticeship programs may be similar to it.  It’s just a matter of applying for them and another link to help is the Department of Labor.

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A Look Back and a Look Forward

As we are beginning 2017, we want to take a quick look back at our blog in 2016.

We want to thank everyone who has taken the time to read our blog. Whether it’s been through our blog home page (http://calmcblog.wordbress.com), our Facebook or LinkedIn pages, or from our web site (http://calmc.org), we appreciate you taking your time to read our work,

Our readership increased in 2016, with 32.7% more readers hitting 25.5% more blog pages. When we began writing this blog we wondered whether anyone would want to read it, so we are very grateful for the support you show.

It is not surprising most of our readers are from the United States, but in 2016 the blog was read in over 50 countries. I hope our writings remain relevant to everyone in 2017.

In addition to those who read our blog from the home page, the 10 most clicked articles in 2016 were:

What Are Some of the Trends in Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining?
Characteristics of a Cooperative Labor-Management Committee – Part 1
Union Stereotypes – They May Not Be What You Think
How Does Safety Affect the Bottom Line in Your Workplace?
Do Labor and Management Share Common Interests?
The Most Important Step In Problem Solving
The Importance of Good Meeting Attendance
The Proof Employee Engagement In Healthcare Works!
Health Care Employee Engagement Needs to Start with Nurses

These articles present a good cross-section of the reasons why we believe employee engagement and labor-management cooperation are important and benefit everyone in the workplace.

Our most read article on the list dealt with trends in labor relations. Interestingly, this article was originally published in early 2014. Be watching in the next couple of weeks when we revisit this topic and take a look at the trends in 2017.

Once again, thanks for reading. We promise to be with you every week in 2017 with our thoughts on improving work systems through join involvement and engaging employees. In the meantime, remember our Quick Takes videos, webinars, and other materials available on our website.

Posted in CALMC, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, Employee Engagement, Employee Involvement, Labor-Management Committees, Labor-Management Cooperation | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do You Know What The Latest Workplace Benefit Is?

One of the latest benefits workplaces are offering is actually one that’s been around for some time in various forms.  The benefit is called, phased retirement plans.  Both private sector and public sector have used phased retirement plans but usually have called it “consulting.”  The colloquial term has been called  “double dipping.”  In other words, a person retires and receives their retirement benefits but immediately comes back to work either in the same job or something similar and usually receives just pay not benefits.  The difference with what’s happening now is that these types of retirements are occurring more often and in different formats which has brought about the term, phased retirements.

So what’s driving this approach to retirement?  According to FiveThirtyEight.com, baby boomers are starting to reconsider retirement and it could become a crisis. The Great Recession greatly reduced retirement accounts and caused many to delay retiring until recently.  The number of people claiming to be retired has risen 10% since 2010.  In addition, there has been a 20% drop of baby boomers in the workforce since 2003, and, of course, it will continue to drop as baby boomers decide to retire.  This is a large group  so the impact will be big!

Workplaces are beginning to realize the loss that will prevail once all the experience and knowledge has left.  One workplace identified they would lose 27,000 years of knowledge and expertise with pending retirements.  The biggest problem most employers face with retirements is they can’t identify just exactly what the knowledge or expertise is at risk until it’s gone.

In the Harvard Business Review article, they cite Boeing as a perfect example.  When they decided to build the Dreamliner, it was the first redesign in over 60 years so they knew it would take a lot of knowledge and experience to help produce the new aircraft but what they were most concerned about was the loss of knowledge and experience of future retirees that would impede the planning and building of the new aircraft.

So how are work organizations handling this huge problem?  Some of the labor-management committees we have worked with have addressed this issue by looking at education.  One committee encouraged the workforce to upgrade their skills through education so employees would be ready for retirements.  The committee provided an education fair by inviting schools and other entities, including the union’s educational department, to come and introduce themselves to the workers.  In addition to giving information to workers about schools, it also provided workers an opportunity to ask their questions and to learn about financial assistance with education.

Another labor-management committee addressed the problem with succession planning.  This would give the employer some time to plan for the retirements that would be occurring and to transfer knowledge and expertise from the employee leaving to the employee staying.  It  also would allow workers to plan their future by obtaining more skills if they were to replace a retiree.

One of CALMC’s colleagues, the  Ohio Employee Ownership Center at Kent State University  here in Ohio has done a lot of work with succession planning to prepare business owners  for retirement, especially as they consider employee ownership as an option.  Family businesses sometimes have no one to continue the business but may have an employee that is interested in owning or operating the business.  It also may be a family owned business just needs assistance passing the organization on to another family member.  One industry they worked with was agriculture.  Agriculture saw huge needs for succession planning as farmers were getting ready to retire.

In June, 2016, a blog posted on the Society of Human Resource Management(SHRM), said even though phased retirement is  a recognized benefit in only a few workplaces according to a recent survey,  it is being used more often unofficially and a report on CNBC said large employers were the ones more inclined to provide phased-in retirement plans.

AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) has been looking at phased retirements with SHRM and  says there is no cookie-cutter approach to a phased retirement plan.  They offer examples organizations have done.  Some employees are  working fewer hours, job-sharing, contracting, or working as a temp when needed.  These jobs, of course, could be pre or post retirement options.

AARP says phased retirements offer benefits to both employers and employees and encourages employers to develop a plan.

For employers, phased retirements can help with operational needs.  As mentioned above, it helps with the loss of skills and experience.  It also can help with labor or skills shortages or with turnover issues.  Personnel costs are also reduced when retirees expertise is utilized.  Other advantages to phased retirements includes an increase in productivity as workers can have both a work life and a personal life.  And, finally, it can allow employers some time to do some personnel planning and review future needs.

Phased retirements can offer a number of benefits to employees depending on the type of phased retirement plan is used.  One of the biggest advantages for workers looking to retire is the psychological benefit.  Phased retirements give workers a window of  what retirement will be like.  It also helps future retirees plan their retirement.  Reduced work hours for future retirees may be a real perk for those who worked regular work hours for years.  Additional income, possible benefits and sharing expertise or learning newer skills are other benefits for workers.

Existing employees that are not planning on retiring also benefit.  They can work beside a future retiree to learn more from their experience.  This can help with continuity for the operation and reduce the opportunity for a knowledge gap that can occur with traditional plans.   It also reduces the pressure placed on existing employees having to learn quickly or within a specified time.

AARP also suggests employers need to determine if phased retirement plans are good for the organization.   It is absolutely essential for there to be buy-in throughout the organization from the top to the person on the floor.  This can be an excellent issue for an employee engagement process or for a labor-management committee to work on.

It is also important to understand IRS is just now beginning to address guidelines for phased retirements.  It also may not be financially beneficial for all workers to take part in phased retirement plans.    These are issues that must be included when planning phased retirements.

Another important issue to mention is not all employers like the idea of retaining retirement approaching employees.  Some prefer to pressure employees to retire.  Some are concerned about their defined benefit plans being adequately funded.  Some think older workers are too expensive to employ and don’t want them to stay on.

There are a number of things to consider  and it definitely should be addressed either in labor-management committees or other employee engagement processes where there are more perspectives to address the concerns and needs of both employer and employee.

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In Memory of Dave Caldwell

Last week we lost a significant Central Ohio labor leader, and the loss will be felt for a long time to come.

Dave Caldwell, President of the Central Ohio Labor Council, AFL-CIO, passed away December 26. In addition to his role with the Labor Council, Dave was also Assistant to the Director of the United Steelworkers District 1.

Dave became a member of Steelworkers Local 2343 when he was employed by Buckeye Steel Castings in 1970 and remained a member until his death. He will be best remembered for his support of workers and efforts to improve their lives in and out of the workplace.

David McCall, Director of United Steelworkers District 1, wrote, “Dave was as strong an advocate for our members, the USW, and Labor in general as anyone I have ever known.  His dedication and love for his family was his badge of honor and the pride he had in his sons was obvious to everyone he spoke to.  His leadership within the District and at the Ohio AFL/CIO will be missed and his commitment to improving the lives of those who reside in Columbus and surrounding communities is a loss to all.”

Dave was a strong supporter of Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, and his commitment to the mission of our organization and support for me personally will be greatly missed. He was a former member of the CALMC Board of Trustees, and was planning to return to our board in 2017.

Just before his passing, Dave and I were planning a meeting to discuss ways to help people return to the workforce after a long absence. Although some of the jobs involved may not have been union jobs, he was still concerned about the people involved. That was what it was like to work with Dave and see that dedication to workers regardless of any conditions. As Michael Sexton, Chair of the Franklin County Democratic party wrote, “Dave always fought for working families, for his community, for civil rights, and for the well-being of everyday people.”

We have lost a great friend. Our sympathies go out to his wife, his children, and the rest of his family. He will be missed.

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Season’s Greetings!

This week the CALMC blog is on hiatus.

Please enjoy reading some of our blogs from previous weeks.

For this of you celebrating the holidays – HAPPY HOLIDAYS from CALMC!

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Do You Know: How to Deal with Conflict in a Meeting?

We have written a number of articles about the interest based-problem solving process and why we believe it helps groups resolve difficult problems while reducing the likelihood of disputes. However, sometimes issues and individuals can lead to conflict in a team.

No matter how well a group is doing, disagreements will occur. Conflict can stop a team in its tracks. Members may not be certain what to do next or how to respond. Conflict, when handled properly, can benefit the team by challenging assumptions or opening the possibility for a more frank discussion of the issues.

Here are some steps you can use to help deal with conflict.

Actively listen to the other party. When someone argues with us we normally feel a range of emotions. We may be surprised at their actions. As they speak, we begin framing our response and picking out how the things they say are wrong. We do not really listen to what they are saying. Instead, stop to actively listen to what is being said. Be certain that you understand their views.

Ask questions to help clarify your understandings of their views. This will also show the other person you have listened to them, which will help encourage discussion. Be certain you ask these questions in a non-accusatory manner that shows you recognize their feelings. Do not assume you know what the person is feeling.

Focus on interests. Hopefully, you took the time to identify everyone’s interests when identifying and diagnosing the problem. Remind everyone of those interests to show the concerns being raised are reflected in the interests. If you did not identify interests previously, take the time to do so now. Ask questions to determine why this issue is important to the other party or if they believe their concerns are not being addressed.

Ask the other party for suggestions. Find out how they feel the problem should be resolved or for more information about how to address their concerns. This can open discussion and defuse the conflict, replacing it with an opportunity to seek solutions.

Take a break to allow everyone to cool off. This will give you (and the other party) a chance to think about the situation. You may even be able to talk privately with the person to help further your understanding of their beliefs. You might need to adjourn the meeting, giving everyone time to cool off and seek additional information before the next meeting.

Do not ignore the topic at the next meeting. Conflict rarely goes away on its own, it only becomes worse if you do not deal with it. The person will feel even more alienated.

Consider whether you own behaviors contributed to the conflict. Ask whether you did something to upset them, as this can open the door to discussion. Perhaps their concerns are with another member of the team, and your discussions with them can help alleviate the concerns.

Look for multiple options to solve the problem, including those presented by the other party. In interest based problem solving, we look for many possible options rather than focus on a single position. be certain all possible outcomes are considered, even if initially you may not like the option. As the group decides what to do using clear, objective criteria, you may find it possible to include ways to address the concerns and interests of all committee members.

Even the most effective teams experience conflict. When they do, the key to success will be to remember how to deal with the conflict productively. As you do, the team can grow in its ability to handle future concerns.

For more ideas about dealing with conflict or help with your committee, contact Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee.

 

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