Meanwhile I work as a developer for an internet company. I've never heard of anybody working under a CBA, or any kind of compensation for overtime (except for extreme cases, like working on sundays). I earn significantly less too.
So I guess unions can be good sometimes, or something.
However, I have always found employee satisfaction and employee-management relations to be far worse in the large union workplaces.
I believe it is due to the fact that having a big, strong union that is capable of basically strong-arming the employer through the threat of job action (if you operate a nuclear power plant, having your engineers go on strike is not really an option) forces management to concede benefits they don't truly believe employees deserve, and that leads to clawbacks of, well, pretty much everything that isn't in the collective agreement. So you might get your 18 sick days (which you can never use without lying because no one who is not chronically ill gets sick for 18 working days every year), but you might have to fill out a multi-page form to get a new notebook (a paper notebook not a notebook computer).
Look at the sort of treatment that contract or temp employees get in big unionized workplaces - generally awful, and that reflects the company's true attitude toward it's employees.
I'd much rather work in a non-union workplace where I get benefits above the statutory minimums because the company truly values it's employees and understands that people who are treated well are more productive than one where everything I get was a concession to avoid labour strife.
If non-unionized company X gives 3 weeks paid vacation per year (2 weeks is the mandatory minimum in Canada) because they want to, that's much more likely to translate into a great workplace than the 4 weeks company Y gives because their employees are members of a massive national labour union and demand it.
Just my $0.02 from personal experience.
Agreed, but do take notice that most people, in most industries, generally don't have that choice
And just to clarify on the use of the term 'engineer', I am an electrical engineer specializing in protection & control. I have worked alongside a variety of electrical, civil, mechanical and industrial engineers in power generation, transmission and distribution. I long for the day when there is a company in my field with a startup mentality.
Where I grew up there is not a single open grocery store anywhere after 8pm or on Sundays for hundreds of kilometers. That makes a difference to places where stores can legally remain open longer.
I’m currently living in Thuringia where stores can be open until 10pm on weekdays – and sure, many smaller stores and even the big shopping mall still opt to only open until 8pm, but thee are always one or two big grocery stores that are actually open until 10pm.
The quantitative difference between no open stores and one or two open stores may be small, the qualitative difference, however, is big.
Grocery stores are even better, generally either closing at 12am or not closing at all. Wal-Mart, for instance, is mostly 24 hours, and Wal-Mart is very widespread.
Regarding the "supposed" part. I don't know exactly but I don't think there was some coordination or agreement between nations on who would do what.
But then you have to account for the higher cost of living, transportation (even if you don't drive, French employers pay for a part of your public transportation tickets), and all the other perks that are inherent to your job (insurance, subsidized lunches,...) and inherent to the country (better public education, etc.).
So I think it's hard to say empirically that engineers are better off in one country rather than the other- although I'd be tempted to say that very high end engineers are better off in the US rather than Europe, and the average engineer is better off in Europe rather than the US.
...better public education...
Um, no. Better students, but a considerably worse public education system.
The cheese, however, is considerably better in France, as are the women (fatties over here drag our average down).
 Since I'm too lazy to switch to windows and open up the Penn Table in Excel, I backed the numbers out of GDP tables: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nomin...
[edit: Hi downmodders, sorry for providing facts. I'll try to avoid that in the future.]
Based on my very subjective experience living in both countries (France growing up + undergrad, US as a graduate student+working), I would say much depends on the size of the city where you live.
Living in San Francisco definitely costs much more than living in Lyon (2nd largest city in France) for me- if you look at the apartment alone, I'd have to shell out $2k+ for something I'd easily have in France for under a thousand euros in terms of size + proximity to businesses.
But then for the food + basic expenses (clothing, etc.) I feel like I spend about the same, although some things are more expensive in the US (public transportation, cell phone plans,...).
When I lived in Grenoble I lived a comfortable student life on 1000 euros a month- this would be nowhere sufficient to live comfortably with in SF. But of course the cities are of different sizes, so again this is very shaky grounds for accurate comparison.
I don't want to end up posting a novel here, but it's definitely an interesting topic on which I'd love to hear more insights from european expatriates in the US (or the opposite).
As for the cheese, you are completely right– and regarding the women, I don't want to belittle my fellow French women, but I would be lying if I said I hadn't found delightful ladies in SF :)
You have two sides, with U.S. on one side where workers just work, with little thought for quality of life, and the other side is Europe, where they get paid a bit less, but they have 4 weeks vacation and much less demanding work load.
I dunno about you, but I'd gladly sacrifice $10K(which is pretty much the whole difference between the two) to get all the perks that europeans get
I'm not quite sure why more people don't do this. Bank a bunch of money at a nice professional job, then quit and be funemployed for 6-12 months while they do lots of cool, life-affirming things. A bunch of my friends have done it - either backpacking around the U.S, or buying a Eurail pass and traveling around Europe, or vacationing in Thailand, or helping orphans in Uganda, or joining the Peace Corps - and have said it's one of the best things they ever did. It doesn't even take much money - most of these are liberal arts majors, not computer programmers, and make much closer to $50K/year than $100K/year.
There are all sorts of creative ways to get around HR.
Hate the game, not those who must survive within it.
It's currently pretty hard to get a job again on the other side of the vacation. Plus for most people in the USA wages are so low it's hard to even save $10K. 48% of the population are living on or below the poverty line.
According to the Census Bureau, the poverty rate was 15.1% in 2010.
Has it somehow managed to more than triple in the last year?
Plus, when your audience is the Hacker News readership it would seem to make little sense to draw conclusions based on the bottom 48% of the population.
Or, perhaps, you'd like to make a supposition that smart people can never be poor?
I think that if you want job security, you're much better off at developing the skills to interview well and the resume to make people sit up and take note of you. You can take that from job to job with you, and know that if you ever get laid off or fired, you can just get another job.
- Germany: 1 month in first 2 years, 2 months for years 5 to 8, ..., 7 months from year 20 on.
- Switzerland: 1 month first year, 2 months for years 2 - 9, 3 months from year 10.
And (at least in Switzerland) a dismissal notice is void if you're on vacation and were not able to receive the registered letter.
The US has 0 (zero!) mandated days off. Even China gives people 5-15 days minimum.
Holidays and sick days are cumulative too, and you're entitled to be paid for untaken ones when you leave your job, so log as you've worked there a minimum of 1 year
A typical American gets 2 weeks of stat holidays on top of their 2 weeks of personal holidays, so that's almost the same as the European getting 4 weeks.
(Again, this varies. In Germany it is usually around 28-30, in Spain around 22)
Currently I get 25 days per year not including 6 days stat, for 31 days total or just over 6 weeks total. This is considered average for London and the UK, I would consider 5 weeks to be the absolute low end in the UK. At the upper end in London the news about the Tube Drivers strike disclosed that they have 40+ days holiday, which is just over 8 weeks.
When I lived in Sweden the numbers were higher, with it being compulsory to take a fortnight in a contiguous block in the summer. The UK is the worst of the lot, and we have it OK.
Just my experience, but it varies so greatly from what you're quoting that I felt obliged to respond.
I can't wait for the day all trains are auto pilot.
I think you miss the point, this move from VW is actually acknowledging that taking time off is a step toward more productivity. I also think that having time for family, culture and further education on non related topics is the best way to make you a round person and thus someone who will be highly efficient in its job life. If that's how you would define Europe, it hasn't worked that bad... I mean, there have been centuries some people are saying the demise of Europe, but it's still one of the richest big area in the world.
Europe has gone through so much more worse crisis than the debt crisis, it will take its game together and solve it.
I knew a guy who emigrated to the USA and was working for CITI and was paying a bigger % of his pay just for his health cover.
It is 13.8% for employers!
I noticed that mobile email doesn't always help get more work done, unless you're the person asking the questions in the emails.
If a bb user is busy answering other people's questions... you're likely doing their work too. The culture of "we're waiting on you" that grows in an organization is the real enemy.
Interruptions are bad too. When someone shows up to interrupt and steal your attention indirectly they are saying "what you're doing is not as important as what I have to say". It might not be in those words, the act of interruption does that. Emails, calls, have to be managed.
Somehow I manage most days to do okay with zero sms notifications, zero email notifications on my phone and zero notifications on my computer. Nothing beeps.
There rarely are many problems that can't wait 1-2 hours. When it's urgent, someone emails, then calls. Poor planning on someone else's part doesn't make an emergency in my part. If people really need you they'll send you stuff a few hours in advance if not a few days. I reward pro-active behaviour and get back to them really fast.
Do any of you employ any strategies to get a better email/life balance?
I've always hated this statement. I can understand, to some extent, not bailing out those who are habitually poorly prepared, but how can you justify not bailing someone out if it's what's best for your company?
Being able to distinguish between a real emergency and a real problem that is solvable in the normal course of operations is an essential skill.
When one person starts being a joker and not taking things seriously and being thoughtful of the productivity of others or their team, it can spread like wildfire.
People who don't respect their own time won't respect the time of others that much. People who think their time is more important than others time will also abuse the time of others.
If I bust my tail getting something done for you that you needed and you can't do the same for something I needed, I'm now doubly under the gun. If I said hey, I have to be there for thebrokencube and you believe in not letting me down, guess what, we have that magical thing of having each others backs and supporting each other.
Sadly, most offices are daycares for adults. People act out their high school insecurities on an epic scale and wonder why they aren't getting anywhere in life.
The key is to be clear that I'm not here to play clean up for messy people. I am happy to pitch in when things go sideways, but do my job and lift the business up.
A broken person, or process will only drag things down.
Can you elaborate? This was a fun teaser but you didn't flesh it out enough.
If we're really customer facing business, we're a proactive business.
Last minute fires mean reactionary mindset. You can never be the best business possible when reactionary. Learning to anticipate things and have them ready in advance is doable in every business.
If we look at every last minute thing and apply this simple test to it, we'll know where we're at:
1) Is this something we've dealt with before?
2) Could it have been dealt with in advance?
If so, I'm not a fan of feeding the monster.
If not, guess what, you have a first time occurence that can use some immediate attention.
How to plan for surprises? I only schedule 5-6 hours of work a day. I leave 1-2 hours a day free. Either that time gets eaten up with true surprises, or I get ahead on my schedule. Responsible scheduling helps everyone.
and .. if you want to achieve this by doing the least work possible, and creating work for others, they will not help you be more successful at your job.
A real successful team, person, and company will all believe in getting more work done with less collective effort. So, if I make my job easier, it shouldn't make your job harder.
Sadly, too many people in management don't get team building, team development, but instead narrow minded views and babysitting everyone through it.
Edit: Added the word If at the beginning, I was examining what I interpreted the previous commenter to be saying.
I can't even begin to fathom that mindset. No amount of money is worth my health. None. I walked out on a great-paying job that turned into a clusterfuck and voluntarily did nothing for a year for exactly that reason.
I worked way below market for quite a while for that reason.
I'm working somewhat below market even now for that reason.
I keep score in happiness and satisfaction, not dollars.
The only way to win at society's collective pissing contest is to opt out.
I believe that this is the secret of work: find the work that gives you more satisfaction than pain, and become the very best you can at it. The money will follow, and it will no longer control you. What controls you now is a sort of purpose that you find through your work. Mind you, it doesn't negate the fact that there will be unpleasant/unsexy things to do at work. (That is one reason why you're getting paid for it, after all.) And it may even make it harder, as you now have a greater emotional involvement in your work.
Purposelessness will suck you dry. I think people instinctively know this when they choose salary over happiness, they just believe it to be inevitable.
I wholeheartedly agree. Time is the most valuable asset any of us have, with money at best a distant second.
Money isn't wealth, time is. Having free time comes with money, but only so much.
If my physical and mental health are trashed from overwork, I can't pay my mortgage, because I can't work for anybody.
Me and my family first. Company second or lower. Always. The company is replaceable, my life and health are not.
Yes of course you and your family come first. But you still have to care about the health of the place that gives you money.
PS: I live well below my market rate and toss the extra into savings. Living pay check to paycheck when your location or skills make it hard to find a new job is simply poor planing.
For some reason I'm also reminded of the scene in Swingers where Jon Favreau's character leaves a string of increasingly pathetic chopped-off voice messages, each trying to soften/undo/complete the previous, but in the absence of real interactivity, failing miserably.
Ever tried making plans with someone who doesn't have a cell phone? I damn well make sure I'm not late because I have no way to reach them. Maybe the same will happen with less available email.
If you get a reputation for being the one to call in an emergency, you'll be the one who gets called in emergencies. If on the other hand, you get a reputation for getting back to people in a day or two unless there's an appropriate reason you need to get back sooner, people will expect you to get back in a day or two unless there's an appropriate reason you need to get back sooner.
What did it do? More problems sent my way. I became the catch-all.
The tough part was transitioning to the 24-48 hour response, not so much for me but the people who knew I can reply in minutes.
I added an email auto response saying
"I schedule my time in a new way --I check my email 2-4 times a day to reply to everything at once and work uninterrupted for 90 minutes at a time.
Call if it's an emergency that hasn't happened before. Otherwise please send me all the details I'll ask you about anyways and I can get back to you right away with an answer in the first email instead of going back and forth.
If you need something done right away please let me know what you can take off my plate while I give you a hand."
After this, I simply replied to the best emails that let me write them a 30 second response. When you're the guy who helps solve problems, believe me, people will do their leg work to set you up to get back to them quickly.
A lot of emails I just emailed them what I would google to find the answer, enjoyed that a lot too.
Some "knowledge worker" roles in phone companies are CWA positions.
I'm all for fair play and sensible regulations, but if the company can't forbid the workers from quitting, I don't see how it's fair that the workers can forbid the company from hiring someone else.
I much prefer being on my own for negotiations. I intend to be one of the best workers; why tie my fate to the average? And why tie the company to me if they can find a better employee?
Power and information asymmetry are the rule when you are negotiating with your boss independently. He knows what the other employees at your company make. You do not.
Many things that are decided today based upon merit or by management discretion become tenure based. That is good and bad.
- Your contract will require things to be done in a fair and equitable way, per the contract.
- Your pay will be more predictable.
- Benefits will probably be better.
- You will have an advocate in the event of a dispute.
- Your contract will require things to be done in a fair and equitable way, per the contract.
- Everyone has an incentive to stick around.
- Certain types of people are very good at manipulating systems to their benefit. (This is present in all organizations, but the dynamic is different with a union)
I've worked in union positions in the past. IMO, the best thing about it is that there are no secrets with regard to compensation.
The alternative is to negotiate really collectively at the government level and outright ban the onerous contract provisions, like California's done with many forms of noncompetes.
I'm not anti-union either. If you're in a big multinational company, they are almost almost certainly better than not having a union.
And now you have two bosses and two problems. I recommend watching "Waiting For Superman" to see how the teacher's union impedes innovation in education.
The big takeaway I take from this is we should move toward a Scandinavian attitude on unions.
How would this work at a place like Amazon, for example? Even with 24hr staffing, there are some instances when the right person(s) are needed. Letting only messages marked as critical thru could lead to most off-hour massages categorized as important. I can see this working in some industries, but not all.
I can imagine that working pretty well. I think people are in general much more hesitant to call than to send an email.
An unfortunate consequence of our lobbyist-driven system is that the most effective way for people outside the 1% (actually more like the 0.1%) to get any positive attention from the government is for them to band together and hire their own lobbyists.