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Posts Tagged ‘workers’

Even the famously socialist French ultimately come to realize that bad policies give bad results.

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This article begins:

Democrat Barack Obama told voters Saturday he would push an aggressive economic agenda as president: cutting taxes for the middle class, raising taxes on the wealthy, pouring money into “green energy” and requiring employers to set up retirement saving plans for their workers.

Hidden deep inside the article, however, is the following passage:

He said employers should be required to set up retirement saving plans for workers even if they contribute no money to them. Workers would automatically be enrolled unless they choose to opt out, he said.

I am not a huge fan of Obama’s economic policies, but I do like the fact that he prefers a nudging approach as opposed to the full-blown nanny-state one favoured by many politicians. That was also apparent in his approach to health insurance, which, unlike Hillary’s, does not include a mandate that everyone has to buy insurance. In Obama’s worldview, the state ought to be there to help, but not by applying too much direct force. It is debatable if the resulting policies are good, what is indisputable is that this kind of ‘soft paternalism’ that consists of opt-ins, opt-outs and nudges is infinitely preferable to the coercive paternalism advocated by some others who believe they know best how you ought to run your life.

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Erm..don’t panic, it is not long-term! All Starbucks stores across the country will be closed for three hours this evening to conduct an in-store education and training program for their employees.

This is how Howard Schultz (founder, chairman and CEO of Starbucks) puts it.

We will close all of our U.S. company-operated stores to teach, educate and share our love of coffee, and the art of espresso. And in doing so, we will begin to elevate the Starbucks Experience for our customers. We are passionate about our coffee. And we will revisit our standards of quality that are the foundation for the trust that our customers have in our coffee and in all of us.

While the above quote is undeniably cheesy, Schultz, it seems, is rather passionate about the cafe experience. Having single-handedly made Americans addicted to coffee, he has nevertheless often been quoted lamenting that Starbucks has lost some of its charm as it has expanded into the behemoth that it is today.

…one of the results has been stores that no longer have the soul of the past and reflect a chain of stores vs. the warm feeling of a neighborhood store. Some people even call our stores sterile, cookie cutter, no longer reflecting the passion our partners feel about our coffee. In fact, I am not sure people today even know we are roasting coffee. You certainly can’t get the message from being in our stores.

Of course, cynics will deride this as a shameless attempt to gain free publicity. While I can’t read Schultz’s mind, there are plenty of blogs out there that tell you how horible Starbucks is, so let me try and be a bit different.

I have always found it amusing how fashionable Starbucks-bashing is. There seem to be two specific accusations (beyond the general rant about capitalism, consumerism, elitism and other horrible “isms”) that people love to make.

One, Starbucks makes terrible coffee and offers a bad cafe experience.

Tastes are of course subjective and so I will only speak for myself. I find the Starbucks experience and their coffee pretty good. In fact, it is always my first choice when I want to go to a cafe to get some work done. I have tried other coffee shops, including chains like Peet’s, Seattles Best and Coffee Bean and nowhere have I found the level of comfort that I get from my neighbourhood Starbucks. In their seating arrangements, lighting, choice of music, balance between privacy and openness … Starbucks gets it right for me.

Two, Starbucks is an evil imperialist monster that ill-treats its workers and runs the local coffee shops out of business.

This is symptomatic of a wider mistrust that people have of the capitalist system, borne out of a basic misunderstanding of how such things work. For the record though, Starbucks treats its workers better than many other chains. It offers better wages and it gives health insurance, not to mention other benefits. As for local independent coffee shops, they, contrary to the claim above, thrive on the existence of Starbucks because it benefits them and drives up their business.

Of course none of this justifies how unenthusing Starbucks’ baked goods range is!

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India is introducing a new rule stipulating that unskilled workers planning to take up a job in the Middle East cannot do so unless they are going to be paid a minimum wage (the exact amount is being fixed by the Indian Government for each Gulf country).

DNA reports (emphasis mine):

In a move that will have far reaching impact on the life of over two million Indian blue collar workers in the Gulf, the rule may drastically cut the number of Indians taking up unskilled jobs in the Gulf countries which will be forced to look for cheaper labour from Bangladesh and Nepal while ensuring that the Indian labour in the Gulf will not be exploited, industry watchers said…

In other words, it is better to compel someone to lose his job than allow him to take it up at a low wage.

What do the workers think? DNA does not say, but the ambassador thinks they will not be too happy:

The Indian ambassador to UAE Talmiz Ahmad said in an interview last week that minimum wages was a sensitive issue as the Indian worker believes he is free to negotiate the terms and conditions he is happy with.

It’s a funny world.

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