Saturday, April 22, 2006

Downsizing or Wrongsizing

"In The Know" - Nancy Leeson, Local 727

I am currently a member of the Joint Health and Safety Committee and therefore try and keep up on all the current health and safety issues in the workplace. One way we maintain our knowledge is to read the OHS Canada magazine. I was reading one issue dated March 2005 and in there was an article that really hit home for us in the Ontario Public Service (OPS). The article was called "Downsizing or Wrongsizing?" I encourage everyone to read it, as it really tells it how it is, and I see these problems happening in our workplace now. We have gone through a lot of downsizing over the years and it seems to be a never-ending topic over these last ten years.

The article talks about how downsizing not only affects our jobs, but also our health which includes anxiety, depression, sleep problems, burnout and heart disease - that seemed almost unbelievable. They had statistics to back this up though: Within four years of a major downsizing there was a significant increase by five-fold in incidence of heart attacks. It is not the people who leave, but the people who stay that are affected the most. It can take six to 12 months before people start to feel right again, but if there are any changes or talk of changes then the feeling people have never goes away (have there ever not been talks of layoffs in the OPS?).

There is also an increase in injuries, but the short periods of absences fell (people felt they couldn't afford to be sick at the risk of losing their jobs), and long term sick leave rose by 16 to 31 per cent. Ontario Health Management Solutions predicts by the year 2020 there will be more disability claims related to mental disabilities than physical disabilities.

People who are not laid off after a downsizing react with anger, sadness, diminished trust and job satisfaction, and increased job strain. Survivors are not usually able to keep up the pace, they develop a short fuse, become withdrawn, irritable, or quick to cry, and former good employees become less interested in "putting out an effort". When a place is downsized, there is a heavier demand placed on those that are left, yet they lose control over key areas of personal activity. Does this not hit home? As just another body in the organization, employees are offered less discretion in how best to apply initiative or to influence the decisions being imposed.

When I read this article, it seemed to describe our workplace perfectly. We, union and management, are all negatively affected by the downsizing and it is not getting any better. They do state that if downsizing is necessary, it should be handled by keeping all workers in the loop and up-to-date about the process and they will suffer less. It seems the government does not care about the health and welfare of its workers, as secrecy is its most important thing. Yes, they warn us about the layoffs - but there are no deadlines, and we just wonder if maybe it will be one of us next. No doubt at all, our health is deteriorating and they are responsible!

Wrongsizing is most certainly true. Quit making us sick! ©

In Solidarity

Thursday, April 13, 2006

mist over falls

Temperatures, Not Hotels, Likely Alter Niagara Falls' Mist

[ photograph ]

UB researchers have found that atmospheric conditions, not high-rise hotels, are likely the cause of the Niagara Falls mist plume.

Release Date



Ellen Goldbaum

716-645-5000 ext 1415

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- What's up with the mist?

When the Niagara Parks Commission posed that question back in 2004, the concern was that high-rise hotels on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls were contributing to the creation of more mist, obscuring the very view that millions of tourists flock there every year to see.

The suspicion was that new high-rise buildings were altering airflow patterns, contributing to a higher, thicker mist plume.

Consultants conducted wind tunnel experiments that seemed to confirm that mist levels were enhanced by the tall buildings around the falls, a report that circulated in the Canadian news media.

Now University at Buffalo geologists have determined that the high-rise hotels are probably not to blame.

"According to our findings, it is unlikely that the buildings at the falls enhance the mist," said Marcus Bursik, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Geology in the UB College of Arts and Sciences, who led the study with several students who were investigating the plume for their graduate-degree projects. "Rather, our data show that it's air and water temperature that control the amount of mist.

"It turns out that the bigger the temperature difference between the air and the water, the higher and more substantial is the mist plume and the thicker is the mist at the Falls," he continued.

Bursik, a volcanologist who has studied atmospheric plumes at volcanoes, noted that plumes, regardless of their origin, have common features.

He was motivated to study the Niagara Falls plume back in 2002.

"I started wondering why the plume rose to different heights on different days," said Bursik, who often can see the plume from his building on the University at Buffalo's North (Amherst) Campus about 20 miles away.

According to the data the UB researchers gathered, the plume is highest during times of the year when the water temperature is higher than the air temperature, which typically occurs during fall and winter.

Bursik explained that in late autumn, even when the air temperature can fall to about 40 or 30 degrees Fahrenheit, the water still remains quite warm, as high as 60 degrees Fahrenheit, conditions that are ideal for a large, high plume.

During the winter, he continued, the temperature of the water remains at 32 degrees Fahrenheit because it is constantly flowing, but the air temperature will plunge by twenty or thirty degrees or more.

"Those temperature differences create more mist flow and a higher plume," said Bursik.

The perception that there have been more misty days in recent years may just be related to temperature trends, he noted.

Using a portable weather station adapted for a backpack, a UB student measured windspeed at the falls to establish airflow and windflow patterns.

Calculations also were made using ambient atmospheric temperature and river-water temperature to make a prediction for the height of the mist plume.

Actual plume height then was measured on different days using the Skylon Tower as a reference point.

"The predicted and measured plume heights matched well, consistent with the notion that the plume is just higher and thicker when the temperature difference is bigger," said Bursik.

The researchers will present their findings at UB's annual Environment and Society Institute Colloquium on April 21. Findings also were presented during the 36th Binghamton Geomorphology Symposium held at UB last October.

The research was supported by seed funding from UB.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York.