Joe Hendren

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Friday, January 07, 2005

Labour Day and working hours

An interesting article on the BBC website looks at the pressures on workers to work more hours than they are paid for, The new face of slave labour.
[A]ccording to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) millions of Britons work so much unpaid overtime they are, on average, providing their employers with free work for the equivalent of nearly eight weeks of the year.

You could say those affected - predominantly the increasing number of white-collar workers in the UK - are providing their services voluntarily every day from 1 January to 25 February. That overtime is worth £23bn to employers, says the TUC's analysis of the Labour Force Survey
It is an irony that we still celebrate Labour Day to commemorate (should that be commiserate the loss of) the 8 hour day, when it no longer exists for many people. Perhaps, with a bit of research, the left could promote 'real' Labour Day, or 'emancipation day', as the day you stop working for your employer for free.

Last Labour day Progressive Enterprises, who run Countdown, Foodtown and Woolworths supermarkets, made it clear who owns who by banning checkout staff from wearing Labour day badges.

Perhaps the Government should consider legal measures to encourage employers to more accurately record actual hours worked. After all, longer hours increase the 'ACC risk', a risk far more tangible for employees as it is measured in heart attacks and other stress related conditions, such as depression.

In the British TUC survey last year, teachers ranked second in a list of professions doing the most unpaid overtime.

"Teachers certainly believe they are working excessive hours.... But at the same time if they think something is good for their children then they will do it. Despite working 54-hour weeks, on average, and taking work home in the holidays, there is still a public perception that teachers have a "cushy number", says the National Union of Teachers (UK)

A teacher friend recently explained to me that NZ secondary contracts are structured around a 7 day week. This has implications for how sick pay is worked out. If a teacher is sick on a Friday and a Monday they are counted as having four days off. This has led to many sniffly nosed teachers struggling through Friday so they don't loose four sick days for being sick on two working days.

Using the 'more holidays' excuse to dismiss teachers concerns about workload and long hours misses the key point - it is simply not healthy for a human being to be doing such long hours over extended periods. Nor can it be good for the kids, at home or at school.

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At 8:02 PM, Blogger span said...

SFWU members at Sky City in Auckland also wore the badges, as a solidarity action with their NDU comrades in the supermarkets, and one of them ended up in a disciplinary! You can read a bit more about it at


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