The Odd Side – March 17, 2015

Bill Sent Out in 1969 Returned To Maine Water District

BRUNSWICK, Maine (AP) – A bill for $1.40 sent out by a Maine water district almost a half-century ago has finally been returned.

The Brunswick and Topsham Water District mailed the bill to a resident of Topsham in October 1969. The bill was supposed to be returned to the water district by the post office because the customer’s post office box had been closed.

However, it didn’t find its way back to the district until last Tuesday, 46 years later.

Linda Deacetis, the district’s executive secretary, tells The Times Record she was quite surprised to receive the bill. The district believes that the customer has since passed away. The bill had a 6-cent stamp on it.

German Employers Creatively Get Around New Minimum Wage

BERLIN (Reuters) – From charging slaughterhouse workers for their knives to compensating staff with tanning salon vouchers, German employers are coming up with creative ways to avoid paying a new minimum wage, angering unions.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government introduced Germany’s first nationwide wage floor of 8.50 euros per hour early this year. The law was the brainchild of the Social Democrats (SPD), who made it a condition of joining Merkel’s coalition in 2013.

The center-left party argued that it was a necessary response to the sharp rise in low-wage jobs over the past decade. 3.7 million people were expected to benefit.

But in the months since it went into effect, it has become clear that not everyone is taking home more pay. The NGG food and catering union is fielding up to 400 calls a day from people who say their employers are finding ways to circumvent the law.

“We’re seeing some employers display an awful lot of creativity to get around paying the minimum wage,” Burkhard Siebert of the NGG said.

He said some workers were no longer getting paid for overtime. Others are being charged for drinks and clothing they are required to wear on the job.

The far-left Linke party say the law was “botched” and contains too many loopholes.

Last week a survey by pollster Infratest dimap showed 15 percent of Germans had heard about employers sidestepping the minimum wage from friends and family. Some 3 percent said they were directly affected.

Among them is 66-year-old Juergen Schluens, who used to earn around 6.30 euros per hour delivering papers in the village of Witzwort close to the North Sea.

Once the new wage law took effect, he says his boss reduced the premium he received for starting work at 4:45 a.m. and demanded that he get the job done in half the time.

“The minimum wage of 8.50 euros per hour was paid on paper but my boss said I could only take 52 minutes to do my round,” he told Reuters.

“I needed about 94 minutes — and I should know as I’ve been doing the job for nearly 11 years.”

He wrote a note of complaint to his boss and says his contract was subsequently terminated without notice, prompting him to take his employer to court.

Unions report cases of bakeries, a solarium and a gym giving staff coupons to use on site rather than paying the minimum wage. A baker who refused such an offer was told to give the vouchers to her husband, the NGG said.

Other workers have had their holiday entitlement reduced or premiums for working nights, holidays and Sundays slashed.

But it’s not bad news for everyone. Uwe Schlegel, a Cologne lawyer, advises small firms on how to get around the minimum wage legally. Demand for his services is “extremely high.”

Florida Golfers Undeterred By Large Alligator on Green

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) – Golfers at a course in Florida on Wednesday were careful to putt around a large alligator, days after the beast was photographed lounging on the edge of the green in an image that went viral.

A women’s tournament went on as planned at the Myakka Pines Golf Club in Englewood, on Florida’s west coast, as the gator, estimated at 12 to 13 feet long, reposed in full view of about 100 participants, said Mickie Zada, the club’s general manager.

“If we stopped playing because of alligators, we’d never have golfers,” Zada said.

Zada said she had spent much of Wednesday morning fielding calls from reporters asking whether the photo, taken by a golfer on Friday, was doctored to make the alligator appear larger.

“This gentleman is well into his 80s. He wouldn’t even know Photoshop,” Zada said.

The alligator is far from the first — or even the biggest — to show up on the course.

A 15-footer nicknamed “Big George” hung around for years until his death, Zada said.

Despite nearly daily alligator sightings at the course, none have attacked a person in the club’s 37 years, Zada said, owing in part to a strict policy against feeding the animals.

Dangerous confrontations between humans and alligators usually stem from people feeding them, Florida wildlife officials have said.

Wildlife Officers Resuscitate Poached Sturgeon in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – State wildlife officers resuscitated a 66-inch sturgeon and cited the man who pulled the fish from the Sacramento River.

Janice Mackey of the Department of Fish and Wildlife said Thursday that officers spotted the suspected poacher along the river near Clarksburg last week.

The man hooked a very large fish and drove off with it in the bed of his pickup truck.

The officers immediately pulled the man over and brought the large, untagged fish back to the riverbed, where they rocked it back and forth, moving water over its gills.

After 20 minutes, the fish gained the strength to swim away.

Fishing for white sturgeon, which are native to California, is highly regulated. They can live to be 100 years old.