But in the US, a major job bank programme has been closed at United Auto Workers, the union that represents many non-management auto workers, as the credit crunch bites.
Have you heard about the programme? My jaw just about hit the floor when I read the details about it.
It started in the 1980s when American car manufacturers wanted to boost productivity by increasing the automation used in their plants and using more-flexible manufacturing techniques. Because the UAW feared massive job losses from automation, union leaders pushed the auto makers and a major supplier to create a form of private unemployment called the jobs bank.
General Motors, Chrysler, Ford and Delphi agreed to put hundreds of millions of dollars (each!) into the "bank" so that displaced workers could continue to collect a paycheque - whether they worked or not.
In 2005, more than 12,000 people were paid not to work. What's more, they received as much as 95 percent of their salary plus benefits, such as health insurance. All they had to do was go to their plant or a union hall every day and wait around to see if their former employer would put them back to work.
Maybe they were assigned to perform volunteer work in their communities, such as sorting clothes at a donation centre. Maybe they played cards with their buddies all day. Either way, they weren't making cars but they still took home a handsome paycheque.
I propose that the IT industry create a similar jobs bank for technical professionals who are losing their jobs because of offshoring, datacentre consolidation projects, obsolescence, increasing automation and other situations that trim the need for IT workers. Here are my initial thoughts on how it would work; the details will need to be refined later.
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