Pre-employment tests may show hiring surgeIs this...


Pre-employment tests may show hiring surge

Is this a new leading indicator?

Dr. Jim Levy, president of CMC Occupational Health, a chain of five laboratories in the Baltimore area, says demand for pre-employment physicals and drug screening is skyrocketing.

That means employers are doing a lot of hiring, he says.

Usually, his labs are packed in March and April, when construction and other seasonal jobs start up.

But this fall, the number of job applicants coming in for physicals and urine tests is up 25 percent from last fall, "and that is a little unusual," Dr. Levy said.

Taylor's legacy is loathed labor concept

Frederick W. Taylor just wanted to create labor peace.

But the Bethlehem Steel Corp. engineer and manager struck a Faustian bargain for workers that many are ruing today, says Robert Kanigel, a University of Baltimore writing teacher and author of a biography on America's first management guru.

Taylor's concept of "scientific management" -- giving the thinking parts of physical jobs to a new class of middle managers -- became the standard in American industry at the beginning of the 20th century because it significantly increased production.

But now, at the end of the century, Taylorism is being blamed for many of corporate America's problems -- alienated production workers, "fat" layers of middle management and poor teamwork.

Mr. Kanigel says Taylor, born to a well-to-do family in 1856, made his first important discovery when he was put in charge of a gang of steel workers and was plunged into a labor-management dispute over work quotas.

"He hated being the bad guy," Mr. Kanigel said. "He said, 'My workers are saying they can only do so much. Under the banner of science, we'll establish what is a fair day's work.' "

In famous trials at a Bethlehem yard, he timed coal shovelers to figure out exactly what arm movements, for example, the most efficient workers used. He then divided jobs into small parts with exact specifications and paid workers by the piece.

The workers who kept their jobs "certainly earned more," Mr. Kanigel said, but, "they were reduced to mindless robots.

"People wanted to make more money, so they did it his way. And most of us have done that in life. The whole Faustian bargain has spread through society."

Americans are trying to undo that bargain today.

"The prevailing thought in management today is to get as far away, as fast as possible, from Taylorism," and to adopt teachings of modern gurus such as J. Edwards Deming, who try to put the thinking back in production jobs.

Mr. Kanigel, whose book tentatively titled "The One Best Way" will be published by Charles Scribner's Sons next year, says he admires his subject -- an inventor of things as revolutionary as high-speed steel and as frivolous as a Y-shaped putter (which was banned by the U.S. Golf Association.)

"I do think he was absolutely sincere."

But Taylor, who died in 1915, was also an elitist. "He thought of himself as the essential democrat, but I just don't see it. . . . He definitely thought there were people who were able to think and plan, and people who were only able to do with their hands," Mr. Kanigel said. "He created the managerial class."

Hospital must pay back overtime wages

Southern Maryland Hospital Inc. has been ordered to pay nearly $4 million in back overtime wages and damages to 2,561 workers who did unpaid work during their lunch hours and after their shifts were over.

U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis found that, from 1984 through 1989, the Clinton hospital willfully violated the federal law requiring workers to be paid for overtime.

Also the judge found the hospital improperly failed to pay about 450 salaried workers, such as nurses and administrators, for missed hours or days. Since they were salaried, the judge ruled, they don't receive overtime when they work extra hours and thus shouldn't be docked if they miss work.

The Baltimore-based federal judge ordered the company to pay nearly $2 million in overtime to its workers, and another $2 million in damages.

Kate Dugan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Labor, which prosecuted the case, said the agency was pleased with the ruling and was only sorry it had taken so long. The case has been in the courts since 1987.

Warren Davison, an attorney for the hospital, insisted yesterday the hospital had always paid overtime to "workers who were entitled to it." He said Southern Maryland Hospital would appeal.

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