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Vol. 76/No. 45      December 10, 2012

(lead article)
Millions forced into part time as
bosses cut costs, drive speedup

Millions of workers today are being forced to take part-time jobs or seeing their hours cut, as bosses push to boost profits and productivity.

At the same time, many companies are reducing workers’ hours to avoid providing health care or having to pay fines for not giving full-time workers coverage under Obamacare, the Barack Obama administration’s health care mandate.

In October there were 8.3 million “involuntary” part-time workers, whose hours vary anywhere from one to 34 hours a week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This figure has risen by nearly one-third of a million over the past couple of months.

The government counts all those working part-time as being employed. Otherwise, the 7.9 percent official unemployment rate in October would be above 14 percent, and even higher if millions of “discouraged” workers were counted.

Since September 2007, “the number of Americans working full time has declined by 5.9 million,” reported the Wall Street Journal, “while the number working part time has jumped by 2.6 million.”

One area where workers have been hard hit is retail sales. “Over the past two decades many major retailers went from a quotient of 70 to 80 percent full-time to at least 70 percent part-time across the industry,” Burt Flickinger III, managing director of the Strategic Resource Group, told the New York Times.

Increasing numbers of stores have been using more sophisticated technology like “scheduling software” to reduce hours to periods of peak sales. This includes keeping workers on call-by status, forcing them to be ready to come into work at the last minute.

“Many employers now schedule shifts as short as two or three hours while historically they may have scheduled eight-hour shifts,” David Ossip, founder of Dayforce, which produces scheduling software, told the Times.

Work less, work harder

At Jamba Juice shops, with 770 outlets, the company’s focus is to speed up work in less hours. “You don’t want to work your team members for eight-hour shifts,” Nicole Rosser, Jamba Juice New York district manager, told the Times. “By the time they get to the second half of their shift, they don’t have the same energy and enthusiasm. We like to schedule people around four- to five-hour shifts so you can get the best out of them during that time.”

The number of temporary or contract workers has also been rising rapidly, up 6 percent in the first quarter of 2012 over last year, according to the American Staffing Association. Over 40 percent more people hold temp jobs now than in 2009.

Some major restaurants, hotels and retailers have started to cut work hours below 30 a week to avoid paying penalties under Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Under this law, starting in January 2014 any company with 50 or more full-time workers must offer government-approved health care or face fines of at least $2,000 for every worker after the first 30.

Pillar Hotels & Resorts, which runs 210 hotels for Sheraton, Fairfield Inns, Hampton Inns and Holiday Inns, “this summer began to focus more on hiring part-time workers among its 5,500 employees,” after the Supreme Court upheld the administration’s health care law, reported the Journal. Others, like owners of fast food burger chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, are replacing full-time employees who left with part-time workers.

Similarly, Anna’s Linens Inc., “is considering cutting hours for some full-time employees to avoid the insurance mandate,” CEO Alan Gladstone told the paper.

And where bosses are planning to offer health care, many insurance plans they are putting in place come with high deductibles, where a worker would have to pay as much as several thousand dollars a year before coverage kicks in.
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