July 7, 2012
Working stiff Employees scared to take off & be replaced
Call them the insecure employed, quiet casualties of the record-high underemployment caused by the Great Recession.
Life on the job for New York City workers of all stripes — from minimum-wage employees with no benefits to office workers with six-figure salaries and paid sick days — is changing for the worse, labor experts said.
One statistic highlights their dilemma: On Friday, the Department of Labor reported that the broadest measure of underemployment rose to 15.9 percent in June.
Although the economy has regained jobs since the official end of the recession in 2009, the growth rate is far too anemic, and employers have the upper hand over those still working. It’s the unspoken reality that there are many people who would want your job, the message being: get to work.
Scared workers are less likely to demand benefits or take time off, which is hitting New York families hard.
“The pressure is on, so workers are easily acquiescing to employers’ demands for lower wages or no raises, or less benefits,” said Heather Boushey, senior economist at the Center for American Progress. “[This is] what high unemployment does to people’s job and economic security.”
Some of the fallout for New York’s insecure employed:
* Less time off. In a new national survey, the Families and Work Institute found that employers have drastically cut back on paternity leave, time off after adopting a child and time off to care for a sick relative — even as employees are taking less vacation time for fear of falling behind or being replaced.
* Reduced benefits. Companies have scaled back on maternity-leave pay and contributions to pension plans. More than 40 percent of employers increased employees’ health-insurance co-payments in the last 12 months, according to the survey.
* More requirements to work anywhere, anytime. While this trend has some upside, it translates into workers being constantly on call by e-mail or cellphone.
Queens resident Rocio Loyola described to The Post what life is like when bosses call all the shots: Come to work sick, or lose your job.
That was the choice Loyola — a kitchen assistant — was given by her boss last month — a choice that, in this economy, was no choice at all.
Loyola supports not only herself, but also her elderly mother and grandmother. The last time she was out of work, she pounded the pavement for months.
Though she told her bosses she had a stomach virus and shouldn’t be in the kitchen, they shrugged off her concerns, Loyola says.
Several trips to the bathroom to vomit drew only criticism for shirking her duties.
“I can’t take any chances,” said Loyola, 35, a member of the immigrant-advocacy group Make the Road New York.
“I can’t do anything that would cause me to lose my job, because it would be really hard to find another one,” Loyola said.
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