Layoffs in Md. outpace U.S. rate

WORKPLACE & CAREERS

no end in sightLayoffs...

September 24, 1993|By Kim Clark | Kim Clark,Staff Writer

Layoffs in Md. outpace U.S. rate; no end in sight

Layoffs in Maryland continued to outpace the national average, the American Management Association's annual downsizing survey reported yesterday.

And there is evidence that layoffs may be getting more severe, despite economists' assertions that the economy is recovering.

The professional group found that 53 percent of the Maryland-based companies surveyed -- eight out of 15 -- reduced their work forces between July 1992 and June 1993.

Nationally, 47 percent of the 870 companies surveyed said they had cut back -- up 1 percentage point from the year-ago level. Worse, the companies cut an average of 10.4 percent of their staffs -- the highest level in three years.

Although more companies reported layoffs during 1990 and 1991, the cuts were not so severe then, said Eric Greenberg, director of the survey.

"We've never seen this combination of breadth and depth [of layoffs] occurring at the same time," he said.

And, he said, there's no end to the layoffs in sight. Based on the companies' reported plans, he projects that about 40 percent of the companies will lay off employees this year.

Wrist braces no panacea for carpal tunnel

The demand for something to ease the pain of those suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome -- mostly typists and other people who must move their fingers and wrists quickly at work -- is so great that one ergonomics company has started selling wrist braces in grocery stores.

That worries some physicians, who say that sufferers may be going overboard in their use of the splints.

Houston Payne, a hand specialist at Baltimore's Union Memorial Hospital, said the braces usually help people with aching wrists.

But, he added, it is probably a bad idea for people whose wrists don't hurt to wear the braces as a preventive measure.

In addition, he said, because the braces immobilize and may weaken the forearm muscles, people should not wear them all the time without a physician's advice.

Instead of buying a splint, people concerned about pain in their hands should change their work station and habits to stop the strain, he said. "It is better to make simple changes in posture or the repetitive motion of jobs" than to wrap splints around your arms.

Despite his concerns, he said, it's no surprise that the devices are becoming more popular. "It is so common to have wrist ailments," he said. "Splints can be a big business."

Chase Ergonomics of Albuquerque, N.M., has started selling its Decades brand wrist splints in grocery stores, a company spokesman said yesterday.

CTDNews, a publication of the Philadelphia-based Center for Workplace Health, says the nation's 1.9 million carpal tunnel sufferers spend an estimated $90 million a year on splints and other aids.

Area clothing workers join protest of Genesco

Members of Baltimore-area locals of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union have been demonstrating outside stores that sell Polo brand clothing and Johnston & Murphy brand shoes.

The union members are asking shoppers to boycott the tony products because of a labor dispute with Nashville, Tenn.-based Genesco Inc., which makes the items.

Mike Proctor, a spokesman for the union in Baltimore, said the company has asked for concessions from its workers at apparel plants in Verona, Va., and Allentown and Shippensburg, Pa.

The company has said it may have to close the plants if it doesn't get concessions, such as a wage freeze and a reduction in health insurance costs.

It has issued federally required shutdown warnings for the Verona and Shippensburg plants.

No Baltimore jobs are at stake, but Mr. Proctor said he and other local workers are supporting the AFL-CIO-sanctioned boycott because of the precedent it sets.

"We need to stand up and say, 'No more,' " he said.

A Genesco spokeswoman called the boycott a "desperate measure" that will not help resolve the dispute.

The apparel division has struggled for several years because of the plants' high costs, the company said.

Suit to declare smoking at work illegal is barred

A Prince George's County Circuit Court judge has dismissed a Rockville man's lawsuit that could have declared all workplace smoking an illegal hazard.

The plaintiff, Albert Ertel, an engineer at General Electric's Information Services division in Rockville, filed a lawsuit last year asking the courts to force the state's safety agency to fine his employer for exposing him to his co-workers' cigarette smoke.

The state fought Mr. Ertel, saying that although government officials have found secondhand smoke to be dangerous, the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health agency hasn't declared the substance an official hazard, so it would be out of line for the court to get involved in the agency's discretionary duties.

Judge William H. McCullough last month agreed with the state and further noted that because GE has since banned all smoking at its Maryland offices, Mr. Ertel's complaint would be moot anyway.

Neil Katz, Mr. Ertel's attorney, says he would decide next week whether to appeal the dismissal.

lTC

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