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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Beautiful day

Today was a fantastically beautiful day. Cool temperatures, clear skies, low humidity, a gentle breeze. Well, I can only attest to those parts of it that I saw for myself, but I have reliable information that the rest of the day was pretty gorgeous, too. Unfortunately, I slept through most of it. I got home from work this morning around 7:00 and took the kitten and one of our older cats out onto the back porch to play. We all went back inside at about 8:00, and I went to bed. I woke up around 3:00 to see a blue sky shining in through my window.

I woke up at 3:00 instead of my usual 2:00 because the plant is closed tonight. Which means that I will be out sixteen hours pay for the week - twelve straight hours, and four overtime hours for the eight hours over forty I would have worked this week.

I was also told that my number's up as far as the layoff rotation goes, and unless something changes dramatically I will be laid off for all of next rotation.

A friend who comes from a completely different socioeconomic strata asked me if being "laid off" is something like a forced vacation. It is not. The term "laid off" is actually used to mean two completely different things. It can be used to mean termination of employment for reasons other than cause, as happened to me and hundreds of others back in 2007; this is sometimes referred to as a "permanent layoff." It can also refer to a temporary reduction in force due to, for example, a reduction in workload. In both cases the laid off worker is considered "unemployed" for the duration of the layoff, or until their unemployment benefits are exhausted.

But "unemployment", at least in Pennsylvania, has very specific rules for eligibility. You must be able and available to work during your period of unemployment to be eligible for benefits. If you are sick, if you are hospitalized, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits, and it is considered an act of fraud to claim them under such circumstances. Similarly, you may not travel out of the area while claiming unemployment benefits, unless you are traveling in search of employment. You are expected to remain tethered to a phone, ready to respond immediately if a call comes through informing you of an employment opportunity.

During a "temporary layoff" the drill is more straightforward: you are still on the active duty roster with your employer, and they may recall you from unemployment at any time. At my workplace there is a number that I must call every day that I am scheduled to work to see if I am laid off or working that day. A working employee may be laid off on any scheduled work day; a temporarily laid off employee may be recalled for any day they were scheduled to work. So any temporarily laid off workers are effectively "on call." When your regular working hours go from 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM, this requires you to remain in a state of sleep-reversed readiness - you can't exactly have a normal daytime existence if you are expected to put in a full night's work with as little as nine hours' notice. (The cutoff for schedule revisions is 9:00 AM the morning of night shift, which begins at 6:00 PM.)

So that is what I have to look forward to: I am off today through Wednesday, "on call" Thursday through Sunday nights, and off again Monday through Thursday.

I'm hoping that those days are all as beautiful as today was.

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