Betriebsrat

Workers’ council, a committee elected by employees that is involved in management of German workplaces.

Spiegel.de reported on 11 Nov 2013 that Microsoft was not renewing the leases for its offices in Hamburg, Böblingen and Bad Homburg, where ~500 of the company’s ~2700 Germany-based employees work. These workers were to be dispersed into telecommuting as “Homeoffice-Mitarbeiter.”

Labor advocates accused the company was doing this to outflank efforts by the Betriebsrat workers’ councils at those locations to negotiate resolutions to Microsoft’s overtime situation, with workers regularly putting in 50 to 60 hours per week in a country that usually has a work week <40 hours, said overtime “being neither off-celebrated [with time] nor offset [with money].” Celebration is a synonym for time spent not working, in German.

Labor advocates also alleged that Microsoft’s plans to rent conference rooms for future meetings with clients was an attempt to ensure there were never more than four of its employees gathered together in one place at a time because, they said, German law requires Betriebsrat representation for workplaces with five employees or more.

(Beh TREEBZ rah t.)

Nur mit Bolzen genietet und nicht geschweißt

“Only riveted together and not welded,” reporter Johannes Hano’s description of many of the ~1000 containers in the leaky tank farm behind the “nuclear ruin” of Fukushima out of which tons of radioactive water have been seeping every day. On 01 Sep 2013 the Guardian.co.uk reported remeasuring had found the water in at least one of these tanks was radioactive enough to kill you within four hours. Also, employees helping clean up the mess for the past two and a half years have not been equipped with dosimetric gear showing them this danger.

A local fisherman based 40 kilometers south of the plant said, “We were just getting ready to steam out when suddenly the news was announced that the ocean had been poisoned with radioactivity, again. First they tried to verarsch us about it. They said only 120 liters had leaked out! Then suddenly it was 300,000 liters. I want to puke.”

On 02 Sep 2013 Tepco was forced to admit they’ve been actively piping some radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean rather than capturing all of it and passively letting some leak out into the sea (or capturing all of it and storing it securely, which is what they were claiming to do). They don’t have enough holding capacity for the site’s contaminated water.

Spiegel.de reported Tepco has been producing ~400 tons of new radioactive water daily that’s pumped each day through the still-seething three reactors that experienced partial meltdowns. A lot of that water just flows down through the buildings, becoming contaminated with cesium, strontium and tritium. They reuse some of it after running it through “ion exchangers” that remove some cesium, but still an extra 400 new tons of water are contaminated each day that way. There’s also an “underground river” flowing beneath the plant from the inland mountains to the sea, exposing about a thousand new metric tons of groundwater to radiation each day. Tepco wants to artificially freeze the earth around the plant into an underground ice wall but doubts have been expressed about that plan, especially after one rat was said to have caused a power outage at Fukushima Daiichi this summer.

As we searched the media for relevant science information immediately after the tsunami and explosions at Fukushima Daiichi, the Rachel Maddow Show’s reporting seemed relatively good in the first fortnight after the disaster. TRMS interviewees said the partial meltdowns at the reactor cores could create a caustic and radioactive chemical brew that could eat through the reactor and building floors and on down into the ground an unknown distance, pulled by gravity and presumably whatever more easily dissolved or traversed materials the soup encounters.

(Noor   mitt   BOLTS en   gen EE tet   oont   nichh t   gesh VICE t.)

Incendies vs. départs de feu

ASN.fr published a French nuclear safety agency report saying approximately 100 fires broke out in electricity-generating French nuclear power stations last year, mostly caused by electrical problems. The report carefully differentiated between incendies, major fires, and départs de feu, mere fire outbreaks, at French nuclear power plants.

Werkverträge

“Work contracts” or “service contracts” that pay workers per item or opus rather than per hour, month or annum. Piecework contracts paying per product or service.

In the Bundesrat, Lower Saxony (S.P.D. + Green party), North Rhine-Westphalia (S.P.D. + Green party) and the Saarland (C.D.U. + S.P.D.) announced an initiative to investigate what they said is growing misuse of this type of labor contract, particularly in the meat packing industry. Such workers, estimated at >10,000 in Germany reported tagesschau.de, are said to be being lured in from less prosperous Eastern European countries, treated badly and paid “hunger wages” by German standards. Apparently current German regulations do not provide workers with this type of contract the same protections given to temp workers [Leiharbeiter], such as a guaranteed minimum wage for each hour worked.

Investigators’ complaints about poor treatment include “piecework at hunger wages [instead of the usual higher wages to compensate for piecework’s lack of benefits], inadequate health protection and opaque Werkvertrag contracts given to low-wage foreign workers.”

The governor of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil (S.P.D.), deemed these contracts “an ulcer on the entire German labor market” and called for them to be banned, saying Werkvertrag workers also need representation in a company’s Betriebsrat, a workers’ committee involved in management. The proposed Bundesrat initiative would mandate that Betriebsrat worker committees must give their approval before Werkvertrag labor can be used in any German company.

Lower Saxony’s government said their state has already passed new rules about shared apartments the companies with questionable Werkvertrag conditions are also renting out to foreign pieceworkers. They now must provide at least 8 square meters per employee-tenant.

(VEH ACK feh TRAY geh.)

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