From Greece, coming to a place near you...?

From Greece, coming to a place near you...?

Sometimes one reads a piece of news that should set the alarm bells of working class militants, anarchists, communists ringing loud and clear – should, but somehow doesn't. That strange mismatch between alarming news and an almost total lack of outrage struck me after I read reports that creditor insitutions involved in the Greek bailout/ imposed austerity programme want to impose a hugely longer working hours as a precondition for another bailout.

Here is how the Guardian puts it, in article published on September 4 .

Quote:
“Greece's Eurozone creditors are demanding that the government in Athens introduce a six-day working week as part of the stiff terms for the country's second bailout. The demand is contained in a leaked letter of the 'troika' of the country's lenders, the European Commission, the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.”

We get a quote from the letter:

Quote:
“Measure: increase flexibility of working schedules: increase the number of maximuym workdays to six days per week for all sectors.”

And, moreover:

Quote:
“set the minimum daily rest to 11 hours, delink the working hours of employees from the opening hours of the establishment, eliminate restrictions on minimum/ maximum time between morning and afternoon shifts...”

A minimum daily rest of 11 hours means a maximum 13 hour working day. Six days a week, 13 hours a day. That is what the troika wants to impose on working class people in Greece, is so far they stil have jobs. Yes, I know, that working hours and weeks like these already exist, and not ony in Greece. But making such the official norms is something else again.

The whole idea is presented as an answer to the threat of structural unemployment. It is no such thing. If you make the same workers work longer hours and more days, the same number of workers simply will do more work (unless workers sabotage that objective through go-slows and so on, or by simply being too tired). That means that capitalists need fewer workers for the same amount of work. It is an intensification of exploitation of those with jobs. Reducing unemployment – even within bourgoeis economic logic - demands workers work fewer hours so the same amount of work among can be divided among more workers. Extending working days and hours works exactly in the opposite direction. It raises production per worker (though not per working hour). It may be good for profitability and competitiveness of Greek capital, which is probably part of the real reason behind this proposal. It means less workers working harder and longer, while leaving other workers without jobs.

It is also a horrific attack on already severely weakened protections of workers in Greece. Alongside the raising of the pension age, the lowering of wages and pensions, the layoffs in the public sector and so on, it is part of a deliberate pauperisation programme imposed ion workers by Greek and international capital. The goal is not just raising profits and so on. At the same time, apparently there is an experiment in operation, in the laboratory called Greece: how far can capital and state go in destroying workers' provisions and protections, without risking civil war, social revolution, or total social collapse?

And herien lies the international relevance of the proposal. If capital can get away with imposing a thirteen hour working day and a six day working week in Greece, will not capitalists and politicians elsewhere be encouraged to follow suit? They also want - and within capitalist logic they need - to raise profitability and competitiveness, at the back of workers. This is why the relative silence of even revolutionary and militant working class people and their supporters is so shocking, so hurtful. If the workers in Greece can be forced to work these kind of days and weeks without working class protests and resistance, without an international outcry, the sooner the threat will knock at our door in other countries as well.

What happens in Greece should be treated as a warning, which we should heed. On September 26th, the official trade union movement in Greece will hold another 24-hour general strike. Some indication of international solidarity would not be bad, and rising an outcry against of the 13 hour working day and 6 day working week might as well be part of such an indication. What threatens the workers in Athens, threatens us all.

Posted By

rooieravotr
Sep 16 2012 02:25

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  • Greece's Eurozone creditors are demanding that the government in Athens introduce a six-day working week as part of the stiff terms for the country's second bailout.

    Guardian

Attached files

Comments

Steven.
Sep 16 2012 10:31

Hey, good blog, thanks for posting. You are right this is extremely worrying stuff. Particularly with regard to the six-day week.

However, with the minimum 11 hours daily rest, I think your fears are unnecessary.

In the UK we already have a minimum 11 hours daily rest - this doesn't mean that we work 13 hour days! The limit is more for shift workers, as 11 hours is the absolute minimum to enable most people to get home from work, get a barely adequate nights sleep, eat, shower and get back to work in a good enough shape to be able to work efficiently the next day.

So if Greece's current protections are better than 11 hours then I'm not surprised they want to reduce them to our level.

With regard to the working day, there would still be the European working time limit of 48 hours per week in any case. For reference, Greeks already work the longest hours in Europe.

(On an editing note, as a blogger when you edit articles you can also approve your changes - just click view list of revisions and revert to your latest version)

rooieravotr
Sep 16 2012 14:35

Thanks Steven for the editing clarification, I hadn't figured that out yet.

On the 13-hour working day, you may be right. But if I am in error, I am not the only one. De Volkskrant, a Dutch mainstream paper, wrote "Proposal Troika: Greek working week of 13 hours a day, 6 days a week", in Dutch obviously, http://www.volkskrant.nl/vk/nl/7264/Schuldencrisis/article/detail/3315130/2012/09/12/Voorstel-trojka-Griekse-werkweek-van-13-uur-per-dag-6-dagen-per-week.dhtml which is the reason that I did not use this as a source in the blog piece here.So I googled up the Guardian thing. The Volkskrant thing may be a kisinterpreetation of the 11-hour,resting time regulation, along the same lines as mine. Thanks anyway for pointing out the problem of this iterpretation.

On the EU 48-hour working week limit: this troika proposal might just be an indirect attack on that as well. Nothing is safe.

EastTexasRed
Sep 19 2012 20:55

Excellent post. I agree that we should all be alert to the European or even global implications of the details of the troika's demands. How to act on that is another question, given that so many attacks are taking place in so many countries, dominating the responses of workers in each at the expense of expressions of support across borders. I don't mean to sound defeatist but am commenting on rooieravotr's observation that very little is being said about the issues he raised.

On the extension of the working week to six days, I'm sure I read yesterday or maybe the day before, but I can't remember where, that one of the sticking points on the Greek government's 'negotiations' with the troika is exactly this point. I believe PASOK and the Democratic Left were threatening to dig their heels in on this point. Whether they will maintain that stance is another matter. As far as contravening the Working Time Directive: given that the neocons seem to be utterly confident that they can impose conditions on workers at will, and that their main weapon is the economic crisis, and that they are now explicitly proposing a federalist super-state (which implies a renegotiation of the EU itself) - what's the betting they'll scrap 48 hours?

flaneur
Sep 20 2012 00:18

Besides, the 48 hour limit is usually subject to the 'optional' extension, which in retail or service type jobs I've had, wasn't very optional.

bastarx
Sep 20 2012 12:25
Steven. wrote:
Hey, good blog, thanks for posting. You are right this is extremely worrying stuff. Particularly with regard to the six-day week.

However, with the minimum 11 hours daily rest, I think your fears are unnecessary.

In the UK we already have a minimum 11 hours daily rest - this doesn't mean that we work 13 hour days! The limit is more for shift workers, as 11 hours is the absolute minimum to enable most people to get home from work, get a barely adequate nights sleep, eat, shower and get back to work in a good enough shape to be able to work efficiently the next day.

So if Greece's current protections are better than 11 hours then I'm not surprised they want to reduce them to our level.

With regard to the working day, there would still be the European working time limit of 48 hours per week in any case. For reference, Greeks already work the longest hours in Europe.

(On an editing note, as a blogger when you edit articles you can also approve your changes - just click view list of revisions and revert to your latest version)

11 hours! We only need 8 hours off and we can get back behind the wheel of a bus.

Steven.
Sep 20 2012 18:14
flaneur wrote:
Besides, the 48 hour limit is usually subject to the 'optional' extension, which in retail or service type jobs I've had, wasn't very optional.

can you opt out in other EU countries?

Peter, that's awful!

flaneur
Sep 20 2012 21:13

No, just here. It's also mandatory for military, emergency services, 'private servants' or certain jobs on the water to be more than 48 hours. Do they work this out over games of Twister, it's right higgledy-piggledy.

petralorre
Sep 26 2012 09:46

And in Italy: Monti vows to boost Italy's lagging productivity:

http://www.eubusiness.com/news-eu/finance-public-debt.ii9/