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    Highlights for week ending July 12, 2003
  • Wichita Eagle: House Votes to Save Fed Retiree Benefits. Excerpt: The House voted Tuesday to guarantee that federal workers, including members of Congress, keep their current prescription drug benefits when they retire even if Congress agrees to a Medicare drug bill that provides significantly less generous benefits.


  • Village Voice: With a Nod From Washington, Verizon Prepares for Battle. Showdown for the Phone Union. Excerpt: "They want a strike, there's no doubt in my mind," said Luzzi. "It is an opportunity for them to move thousands of jobs outside the state. They throw a switch and calls are shifted to Texas and other right-to-work states. It took us 40 years to build up our contract to provide a fair wage for our members and some protection against layoffs. They want that back." What gives Verizon the gumption to go on the attack now, Luzzi believes, is the prevailing attitude from Washington. "It's coming from Bush on down," he said. "He is trying to roll back the fair-labor standards that have been in place for about 70 years, and Verizon is taking advantage." Verizon adamantly denies seeking a walkout. But while the parties argue at the bargaining table, the more important battle will be waged in the media, the union suspects. The confidential memo clearly advocates that approach. It proposes that the company prepare "a white paper . . . or some form of media advisory" laying out its version of events. Such a paper "could be released by the company or, perhaps better yet, by a third party," wrote the company consultant.


  • Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin: Verizon ordered to rehire 2,300 people. Laid-off N.Y. workers to receive back pay. Excerpt: An arbitrator has ordered Verizon Communications Inc. to rehire 2,300 people in New York state who were laid off in December, striking a blow against the phone company's cost-cutting efforts and ratcheting up the tension surrounding Verizon's talks on a new labor contract.


  • Washington Post: Pension Proposal Questioned. Bush Would Change Formula for Funding. Excerpt: The pension issue may not be sexy, but corporations and unions have been lobbying heavily for fast action to help bolster pension funds which have seen their values plummet with the bursting of the stock bubble and plunging interest rates. The administration had wanted to avoid the issue, at least until after the November 2004 election, and for good reason, said one prominent corporate pension lobbyist. "It's a no-win situation," he said. "What you need to do to shore up the nation's pension system is not necessarily going to make your big corporate donors happy." "The question is, do you want the plans to tank now, or let them slowly bleed?" the lobbyist said. The administration chose the latter, the lobbyist concluded. By providing the short-term relief of a fixed, corporate-bond benchmark for two years, the plan would likely keep most big corporate pensions afloat through the election. The hope is that an economic recovery over that time will naturally push up interest rates and stock prices, thus improving the health of many corporate pension funds. If that does not happen, at least busted pension systems will not have been an election issue.


  • Boston Globe: Pension shift may hurt some. Midcareer, young workers would see reductions in lump-sum payouts. Excerpt: Baby boomer employees who retire early or change jobs could lose substantial amounts of their lump-sum retirement money under a Bush administration proposal aimed at giving corporations some near-term relief from paying for their growing pension liabilities. The US Treasury Department on Monday night released its long-awaited plan to address the pension-funding issue by raising a benchmark interest rate used in calculating employers' future obligations to retirees. Over the next two years, the Bush plan would change the computation of unfunded pension liabilities, reducing many employers' required payments into their pension funds by millions or billions of dollars. Last year, the 500 companies in the Standard & Poor's index contributed about $46 billion to their pension plans, triple their 2001 contribution.


  • U.S. Department of Treasury: The Administration Proposal to Improve the Accuracy and Transparency of Pension Information. Excerpt:The Proposal Will Strengthen and Secure Americans’ Pension Security by:
    • Improving the accuracy of the pension liability discount rate
    • Increasing the transparency of pension plan information
    • Strengthening safeguards against pension underfunding

Coverage on H1-B and L1 Visa and Outsourcing Issues

  • News.com: Overseas outsourcing to rise in 2003. Excerpt: Gartner predicts that the market for so-called business process outsourcing (BPO) done offshore will hit $1.8 billion in 2003, up from $1.3 billion in 2002. Still, the offshore BPO market will make up just 1.5 percent of the total BPO market this year, Gartner said.


  • News.com: Survey: Outsourcing may hit IT careers. Excerpt: The rampant outsourcing of information technology jobs could well sound the death knell of Australia's tech industry, an IT Manager Australia survey has revealed.


  • News.com: Taking the measure of IT's pain. Excerpt: Bernstein discovered that the unemployment rate for mathematicians and computer scientists climbed from around 1 percent in the latter 1990s to around 5 percent at the end of 2002--twice that of the increase in the overall unemployment rate. On the wage front, there similarly wasn't much to write home about. Non-inflation-adjusted wages for professional and technical workers grew 1.7 percent between the fourth quarter of 2001 and the fourth quarter of 2002, Bernstein concluded. That also happens to be the smallest increase since the Labor Department first collected that data in 1976.


  • Economic Times (India): Move afoot in US Cong to eliminate H1-B visas. Excerpt: A quiet move is afoot in the US Congress to do away with the H1-B visa category that has benefited countries like India, particularly its software exports and IT professionals. A Republican Congressman from Colorado, Tom Tancredo, has introduced a 15-line bill proposing to eliminate all visas under the H1-B category, created in 1952 to provide the US economy with technically skilled foreign workers. ... Calling Tancredo's latest bill as "an anti-immigration, anti-tech move disguised as an economic stimulus", Gopal Raju, chairman of the Indian American Centre for Political Awareness, said: "Congressman Tancredo has argued that current unemployment levels in the US warrant an outright cancellation of the H1-B programme in order to save those jobs for American engineers and programmers."


This week on the Alliance@IBM Site:

  • Raleigh News & Observer: Mold lawsuits target IBM Workers say place made them ill. Excerpt:A few days after 30,000 gallons of water flooded her IBM office building in April 2000,Julie Ord began to feel sick. Once an avid tennis player , she began suffering from debilitating fatigue and memory loss. Now on long-term disability leave from her job as a senior financial analyst at IBM, Ord is one of several workers suing the computer giant, alleging that it failed to protect employees from toxic mold at the company's Research Triangle Park campus
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"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have too much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." — Franklin D. Roosevelt
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