Saturday, January 31, 2009

4-day Work Week?

Governor Fitial is proposing across-the-board cuts in government employment. He proposes a 4 day work week, which he wants to get with Legislative approval, but which he will implement in other ways, if he doesn't get such sanction. Without congressional support, the cuts would likely effect fewer employees than with it, but the cuts will definitely be felt.

Ed has already published a critical post on his blog, Marianas Pride.

I do not think our Governor has ever given us the full picture on revenues, so that our Legislature cannot realistically assess the situation and plan a proper budget. I say this because, despite the dire situation as insisted by our Governor, he had no difficulty coming up wiht $400,000 for the federalization lawsuit. That is not chump change.

I suspect the money comes from class-action settlements, or some other source of revenue that has not been disclosed in the projected CNMI revenues for Legislative use in budgeting.

I think our Legislators should be actively supporting Tina Sablan's efforts to find out how the federalization lawsuit is being funded. And they should be demanding an accounting of all money, no matter how it finds its ways into the government till. And I think the Governor should not be able to spend money without Legislative authorization.

But all of that said, I think we need to assess the idea of a 4-day work week independently of the proponent, independently of the professed reason for it. I'm not fan of Governor Fitial, but that doesn't mean I am going to automatically disagree with everything he says and does.

For example, in the U.S., about 16% of city governments have 4-day work week options. City government agencies in Maryland, Indiana, Oklahoma, Washington state,and Arizona have started using the 4 day work week. Utah has recently mandated the 4-day work week on a state-wide basis, according to a July 2008 USA news report. Closer to home, Hawaii has also experimented with the 4-day work week.

What positives come from a 4-day work week? When utilized on a large scale, the effect is staggering. The most notable is an improvement in our "carbon footprint" as fewer people are commuting to work. You can read some of the math computations and information in this article about 16 reasons in support of the 4-day work week.

What about the personal loss of income from reduced hours? Some of the 4-day work week programs still provide for 40 hour weeks, just divided up into 4 days-so workers would work 10 hours/day rather than 8. But some of the proposals, on the table or implemented, reduces hours and contend that 4 days/32 hours produces the same amount of productivity over time as a 5-day week of 40 hours, because workers become more productive with the freedom to have time off. And greater productivity, greater savings on energy, means that employers can actually pay more per hour.

For sure, there is not universal acclaim for the 4-day work week. The federal OPM opposes the notion. And in Oregon, there is strong objection to a 4-day work week being used in the public school system.

But the 4-day work week is a very happening topic now, with both private businesses and small governments opting for this choice, despite the concerns.

While the debate over a shorter-work week raged in Europe in the 1990's, it's being discussed and implemented now in New Zealand, and Great Britain and elsewhere around the globe. It's even made it to you tube!

Should we jump on the bandwagon? Well, no. But should we consider and research and discuss the idea seriously?

I think so.



Anonymous said...

Never underestimate the cleverness of the government worker.
Here is a typical week:

Monday-Hangover day a paid sick day.
Tue.- In to work, but dragging ass
Wed.- Layna do I have to work today?
Thurs. This is really a Friday.
Fri.- Work? You got to be kidding this is Friday getting ready for the weekend.Save some work for next week.

Here is a typical workday-
Clock-in at 7:30 am. Damn that biometric time clock, now I can't have my co-workers time me in.
8:00 am Get some coffee
Read the paper online.
Check e-mails, phone home tie up gov phone lines.
9:00 am Gotta have a betelnut break. Lanya.. bitch to co-workers..Fitial is cutting our hours. Won't vote for him this time.
10:00 am Start cooking some rice and spam for lunch.Phone home. Order lunch from the pinay girls for Magasa.
10:30 deliver gov files at Leg. Bureau, drop by auntie's pick up puga and populo leaves.
11:00 am Lanya missed my cofee break, so stand out side spit some betelnut juice over the railing.
11:30 am Time out for lunch.
12:30 Time in. Go back finish the rice and leftovers.
1:00 pm Check e-mails.
Actually do some simple tasks.
2:00 pm Gotta have a break.
3:00 pm Damn gotta do this shit for Magasa.Oh, gotta phone home Rosary still on tonight.
4:00 Pass around collection letter for my primo's heart operation.
4:10 pm Phone home.
4:15 Have a break... Layana the coffee is cold.
4:30 pm Oh look it's time to go home! Time out right on 4:30 not 4:31 or 4:32!!!!

So...... a 4-day work week then turns into a 3-day work week. Wanna bet on this?

Saipan Writer said...

The government workers like the one you describe are the ones who should be cut from payroll.

I know many others who are working hard and earning their pay, some are even underpaid based on what they do.

Fixing the system will also bring accountability and respect to the much-maligned CNMI government worker.

Anonymous said...

SP, the problem is.. the much- maligned gov worker is very often much-aligned with the party in power in one way or another. The longterm deadwood have been around so long there is a serious sense of entitlement. The next party, and the present party will not be re-elected, should do an independent aduit on all gov workers. Look at the sick leave rate, keep vehicle logs to review missuse of gov vehicles, acutual work accomplished, get rid of those deputy positions, ensure all Secretary's are qualified for their positions prior to confirmation. In other words treat them like the private sector. Yes, it will be very painful. Look at many families that work or worked in the private sector. It is a tough world out there and it will get tougher.

Samatakah said...

The governator (of California) is proposing two day furloughs each month for gov workers. Don't know yet if the Legislature will go for it.

PS If the gov't could pay more they might get more work-focused people. Certainly when I worked at state universities people worked hard... I had 4500 students in my caseload at a state U, which was almost the entire student body at the private university I'd worked at... And all of us worked hard, at both places... it just wasn't possible for me to get my job done at the SU in 40 hours, even on the days I hit the ground running and didn't have time to read the paper online. FYI. And in CA, state U emps are not exactly state employees but are seen as same. /sigh

Lil' Hammerhead said...

Several studies have shown that European countries with shorter work hours and fewer workdays are actually more productive than American workers. That being said.. they also get paid well and in many cases have amazing vacation and other benefits. I would not want thousands of people out for a whole day where the European models aren't the case.. the crime rate will skyrocket.

captain said...

Another thing that most private sectors have is only a few paid holidays.

Also two weeks of paid vacation time. The total of accumulative vacation time stops at 4 weeks. "Use it or lose it"
Sick leave is also not carried over, a max of two weeks accumulated a year.Every year everyone starts at 3 days, the accumulative days are taken away. Every sick day has to have a doctors certificate and billing.

In the past some of the larger companies like Defense Contractors used to purchase our vacation time and left over sick leave at the end of the year.
Years ago this was stopped on many companies. I do not know if any big companies are still doing it.
When I was in the service we had to use our regular leave time, we could not cary over.
There also was not any "make up time for missed days or hours. They where gone if you took off or did not show up for work.
Comp time was not permitted either.
Most of this was done, beside cutting overall operating cost, to also keep administrative exspenses at a minimum and put everybody on the same level, on retirement or termination.