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Insurer Jacks Hours, Stiffs Workers

It may be Medical, but it ain't Mutual. While the insurance giant rewards its sales staff with trips abroad and an accused sexual harasser with a $20,000-a-month consulting deal, rank-and-file employees face a pay cut next year. The company is expected to change its 37.5-hour work week to 40 hours as of January 1, shaving hourly wages and tightening the screws on salaried employees. The squeeze is being packaged with a more lenient dress code and sick-leave policy, but the medicine still isn't going down. "Management didn't vote themselves a gluttonous pay raise, but they sure as hell canceled out the last two they gave us,"; complains one staffer. Hardest hit will be hourly employees, the bulk of whom are reportedly women and minorities. Disgruntled types may be given the option of skipping lunch instead of working the extra half-hour. If management was really smart, they&supl;d bill their Simon Legree special as a new diet program.

Medical Mutual showed its caring side last weekend as a co-sponsor of the Everywoman Show, the two-day Plain Dealer extravaganza aimed at the widest swath of womankind possible. Exhibits and speakers covered everything from parenting to plus-sized glamour. Absent was any mention of how to handle sexual harassment in the workplace. Too bad, considering the in-house expertise on the Medical Mutual payroll.

Also conspicuous by its absence is the electronic billboard pumping The PD's Cleveland Live website that was supposed to flash baseball playoff crowds near the Caxton Building. "We are still working on that, and it's in the works,"; says Cleveland Live President and CEO Eliza Wing. Maybe for Opening Day 2000.

Unintended Irony Department: Smack in the middle of Banned Book Week, Imperial Mayor Mike White announced the city's new website (www.cityofcleveland.org), which provides super-useful lists of City Hall bureaucrats and answers to FAQs like "Where do I contest a parking ticket?"; The site also includes a "Kid's Korner" — an unfortunate spelling, considering the reading test scores of Cleveland schoolchildren — in which His Highness makes reading recommendations for kids of all ages, such as A Separate Peace by John Knowles for tenth graders. According to Banned in the U.S.A., a compendium of forbidden literature, A Separate Peace is one of the '90s' most banned books, thrown out of school libraries and curricula because of its graphic language. Imagine what librarians would do if they ever heard the exchanges between White and political nemesis George Forbes.

What does it take to get Mary Rose Oakar and Mike White in the same room? Free beer. White and his would-be successor were among the faces spotted last week at the opening of Great Lakes Brewing Company's new production facility, which more than doubles the brewery's old capacity. Oakar, the Congresswoman-turned-alleged felon-turned-Statehouse candidate, schmoozed easily with her Ohio City neighbors, though all the gladhanding didn't leave her much time for quaffing. White, on the other hand, stepped up to tap the ceremonial first keg of Dortmunder Gold and actually loosened up enough to take one big, quick swig. Best line overheard: "The city would do better with him drunk on Dortmunder than drunk on power." Draughts and hot tips to edge@clevescene.com.

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