Friday, October 31, 2014

The Hazards Of Working (Too) Hard In US

In industry after industry, speedups are turning work into a hazard, with increasing numbers of injuries and dangerous levels of stress. While 18.6 million people remain underemployed, millions of others are working more hours, and more intensely, than ever. This is especially true in certain industries, from oil refineries to retail to publishing, where federal data shows labor productivity has risen at double or more the national rate.
 A 2010 survey of people registered with found that 53 percent of respondents had taken on additional duties since the start of the recession because co-workers had been laid off—almost all of them without any additional compensation.
 A 2010 report from the Center for American Progress and the Hastings Center for WorkLife Law found that overwork was a particular problem among professionals: 14 percent of women and 38 percent of men were working more than fifty hours a week. But it has become common in industrial occupations as well. “When time and a half for overtime was established by federal law, that was really a job-creation measure, so it would cost less to hire a new worker,” says Mike Wright, the United Steelworkers’ director of health and safety. “But starting in the late 1970s, the cost of benefits exceeded that extra pay cost, and it became cheaper to work your existing workers harder.”

American workers do work longer hours than we did a generation ago, according to some analyses, and hundreds more per year than our counterparts in France or Germany—the equivalent of six to eight extra weeks a year. We top the Eurozone nations in productivity by 18 percentage points. “Every month the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] releases its worker-productivity numbers, which measure output per labor hour worked,” says Celeste Monforton, a former Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) staffer. Montforton, now at the George Washington University School of Public Health, points out that the numbers “go up every month. And that’s because businesses are not hiring new workers; they’re just expecting the old workers to work more, and spitting them out after they get injured.” Some of these gains come from the adoption of new technologies, but others just come from pushing workers harder.

A 2013 survey of its own union reps by the United Steelworkers, which represents such blue-collar industries as oil and steel, found that production pressures, the increased pace of work and increased workloads topped workplace health concerns—outstripping more obvious risks such as poorly maintained equipment. When the reps were asked to give an example of a health or safety problem that had gotten worse over the past year, understaffing led the list. The jobless recovery, in other words, is sustained in part by aggressively overworking those with jobs.

taken from here


Mike Ballard said...

Workers don't get that they produce the price of the skills they've sold to their employers with the first couple hours of their labour time. Shorter work time should be goal of class conscious workers in the struggle over the social product of their labour.

Janet Surman said...

The goal is the abolition of the wages system - wage slavery - and the common ownership of the means of production. That way without doubt one of the effects will be shorter working time and better conditions for everyone.

ajohnstone said...

Within my union branch we always tried to claim time-bonuses instead of cash since the argument was that eventually whatever money you gained would be eaten away, but it was harder to steal time back from you. Of course, management were always intent upon trying to get us to work harder to compensate for the time they lost but that too was difficult and costly in supervision/overseeing. When circumstances in working practices changed some local offices did indeed trade their time bonus back into money.