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You deserve a month off!
April 30, 2002 7:46 AM   Subscribe

You deserve a month off! The thirty hour workweek. The shorter workweek. The AFL-CIO on bargaining for alternative work schedules. Is it true that "Almost half of US workers (47%) are responsible for the care of children and/or elderly or disabled adults?" Part time work and women. "We aren't whining. We do work too much."
posted by sheauga (37 comments total)

 
Amen to that! A lot of talk has gone on lately about people paying more attention to the quality of their life rather than how much they have, yet no momentum has been gained.

For someone in my profession (IT), it is not even possible to work less hours, even if you were willing to get paid less. So for me, it's work-work-work, or be unemployed. I wouldn't mind working 20% less hours for 20% less money, and I know I could maintain my current level of productivity, but oh well...

Maybe the only solution is to move to Europe or Australia. I'm beginning to think it's worth it. I'd rather enjoy my life. Can't do that when I'm working all the time.
posted by eas98 at 8:40 AM on April 30, 2002


My cousin in Belgium is a nurse. She gets six weeks off. When I told my family that I only get two weeks a year, and that's why I don't visit every year, they were aghast. Everyone there is guaranteed two weeks off, just for the summer. To get a decent amount of time off I'd have to quit my job.
posted by panopticon at 8:51 AM on April 30, 2002


My dad, an engineer in Germany, is leaving for a month-long trip through Spain today. And that's on his left-over vacation from last year -- he's taking his six weeks for 2002 in the fall.

Yeah, if I'm ever going to join the 9-5 work force again, it'll be in Europe.
posted by muckster at 8:53 AM on April 30, 2002


Amen Amen! Most folks I know would be thrilled just to bring it DOWN to 40 hours. I think a 4-day schedule is really the best goal. I'm on one now and I'm more productive, in good spirits, my shit is taken care of at home, and I feel great about the employer who's letting me do it.
posted by scarabic at 8:53 AM on April 30, 2002


Personally I have been on a one-man crusade for the institution of a siesta right here in beautiful sunny Cincinnati. Unfortunately all of my employers don’t see the need for it, but are happy enough to play Unreal with me at 5 PM for hours. When I point this out to them and the fact that I could just skip the whole game playing and use that time for a midday nap, they just get pissy and snark on about productivity and the such.

Yet another case of the Man getting me down.
posted by plemeljr at 8:58 AM on April 30, 2002


I wonder if this guy was getting disability pay while he spent six weeks cleaning, painting, and swimming with dolphins.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:01 AM on April 30, 2002


I thought the UK still had long work hours and it was just the continent that people got all the time off, or has that changed?
posted by Salmonberry at 9:04 AM on April 30, 2002


Me, my job is seasonal, so I only work about 7-8 months of the year. I get no money for the other 4-5 months, but I simply do not care. I see far too many people working themselves to death to pay for things they don't really need. Simplicity, wheee! Buy your freedom with frugality!
posted by JanetLand at 9:04 AM on April 30, 2002


Janetland, what do you do that's so seasonal? Landscaping? Lifeguarding? Migrant farmer?
posted by panopticon at 9:09 AM on April 30, 2002


want to work less hours? remain childless. it's the best way to get out of the rat race.
posted by zoopraxiscope at 9:12 AM on April 30, 2002


Just to counter one bit of misinformation in the article: "the Australians are super-geniuses. Three months per year, paid."

Annual leave in Australia is four weeks. The three months is long service leave, which you get for every ten years of continuous employment with the same employer - so usually only public servants end up getting it. Spread over ten years, that's an extra week and a bit per year; so, five and a bit weeks per year, assuming you stay in the same job for that whole time (and how likely is that nowadays?).
posted by rory at 9:13 AM on April 30, 2002


Nothing so outdoors-y, panopticon. I work for a state legislature -- when they're in session, I work.
posted by JanetLand at 9:15 AM on April 30, 2002


No doubt about it, two weeks of vacation is not enough. But it would be a bit more tolerable if there were more paid holidays.

Fortunately, my job seems to be one of the minority of IT jobs with "normal" hours. I find that my ability to concentrate deteriorates if I work more than 8-9 hours in a day. Working any longer would probably result in lower net productivity due to increased errors, etc.
posted by groundhog at 9:42 AM on April 30, 2002


Less hours and more vacation would be nice, but I tend to think that no one should ever work.
posted by sudama at 9:52 AM on April 30, 2002


weird. i read "Our laws are wrong." as "our lawns are wrong"!

my brother works three 12 hour days a week and likes it a lot. he used to snowboard on his days off, but then he got married :)
posted by kliuless at 10:03 AM on April 30, 2002


And just think of how a 30-hour workweek, with two sets of overlapping shifts throughout the course of the day, would change rush hour traffic. If you were to bifurcate all workers down the middle into those working say from 9 AM to 3 PM and 11 AM to 5 PM, you would effectively cut all the traffic occuring during our current rush hour commute in half and suffuse it over the course of several hours.

Sadly, I don't think we'll see something like this happening. Not only are corporations keen to get the most out of their workers (little realizing that a 30 hour workweek would probably amp up productivity because of reduced stress within one sitting), but, far from the myth of the lazy Yank, American workers are keen to labor themselves into the ground, often out of economic necessity.
posted by ed at 10:38 AM on April 30, 2002


Here's what sucks: I am jobless as of a month ago. Do I get to go on a trip, sleep in, get cracking on the seemingly endless to do list of a new homeowner? no! I get to spend my 'downtime' beaming my resume throughout the universe.

I get to spend my no job time looking for a new job. The man, indeed.
posted by verso at 10:38 AM on April 30, 2002


I get 5 weeks of paid vacation and 4 weeks of paid holidays every year in Austria, and that increases with the length of time I'm employed in the same company. 5 weeks is the base from which you start...
posted by syzygy at 11:02 AM on April 30, 2002


One should read this article for more insight into the foolishness of the American 40+hr week. It was a MeFi FPP the other day, but only garnered a couple comments. It is, however, relevent to this thread, too.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:08 AM on April 30, 2002


Sure, people. You can whine all you want about increasing productivity and whatnot, but there ain't no way in hell you're going to convince your employer to pay you the same amount to work fewer hours. Or shell out more to accomodate new workers needed to cover hours that no one works due to shortened shifts.

If you're an American that wants to take part in the booming economy of Italy, you should move there and enjoy their siestas and long vacations and lower standard of living -- oh, and good luck finding a job with a 12 percent unemployment rate.
posted by dogmatic at 11:42 AM on April 30, 2002


there ain't no way in hell you're going to convince your employer to pay you the same amount to work fewer hours

Everybody would have to do the convincing at the same time.
posted by muckster at 11:46 AM on April 30, 2002


Um, I'd just like to point out that I've never heard of anyone having a siesta here in Italy, unless you count small shop owners, who are unlikely to employ you anyway. And "lower standard of living"? Whatever.
The long vacations are nice, though, and I have no plans to move back to the US any time soon, thanks for asking.
posted by PlinAgin at 11:48 AM on April 30, 2002


We do get lots of holidays here in the Netherlands - but even during the working week people take it pretty easy. 9 or 9:30am to 5:30pm is fairly typical (with only half an hour for lunch) - and you can leave work on the dot of 5:30 without any raised eyebrows. Even earlier on Fridays!
posted by different at 12:34 PM on April 30, 2002


Sure, people. You can whine all you want about increasing productivity and whatnot, but there ain't no way in hell you're going to convince your employer to pay you the same amount to work fewer hours. Or shell out more to accomodate new workers needed to cover hours that no one works due to shortened shifts.

Sure, people. You can whine all you want about unsanitary working conditions, 12 hour days, and a seven day work week all you want, but there ain't no way in hell you're going to convince the overseer to pay you a livable wage in a 40 hour work week. Or to shell out more to pay for new indentured servants to cover hours that you don't work anymore because you are so busy with your family and other trivial matters. Sure, you can ask for a minimum wage and health benefits all you want, but ain't no way an employer is going to pay for it. Sure, you can ask to be paid enough so that your 6 year old children can go to school and not have to work, but those are valuable hands that need to be sweeping the boss's floors.

You may as well go to Italy where they take siestas and drink margaritas, and live in caves, and where no one has a job.
posted by adampsyche at 12:41 PM on April 30, 2002


A shorter workweek would hurt the economy greatly, however, it would hurt the working poor even more. Someone making 5.75 an hour, working a 40 hour week, and barely making enough to substain him(her)self, would be just totally screwed over. While a shorter workweek may be better for the people with salaries, it just fucks over the people making an hourly wage.


Doesn't France's examples in howshortening the work week will screw everyone over mean anything to anyone?
posted by Darke at 12:44 PM on April 30, 2002


Erm, no margaritas, either.
posted by PlinAgin at 1:38 PM on April 30, 2002


Erm, no margaritas, either.

Sorry, forgot to enclose my comments with tags to indicate that I was being snarky to dogmatic.
posted by adampsyche at 1:41 PM on April 30, 2002


The sacred cow of a "40 hour week - two weeks vacation" is a gender issue. Who winds up caring for the old and the sick when all workers are away from the home for 40+ hours? What happens when workers have to relocate, leaving their elderly relatives in other cities? When the Old Testament gave specific instructions to "honor your father and mother," was two weeks' visitation per year plus an "eldercare resources referral" from the HR department really what the good Lord had in mind?
posted by sheauga at 4:01 PM on April 30, 2002


megadittoes to adampsyche!!!*

Darke: Someone making 5.75 an hour, working a 40 hour week, and barely making enough to substain him(her)self, would be just totally screwed over. While a shorter workweek may be better for the people with salaries, it just fucks over the people making an hourly wage.

They're pretty much screwed over as it is. Any sane adjustment in the "work week" laws would also adjust the minimum wage upward a couple of dollars an hour. And the problem you describe in the last sentence isn't with the idea of a shorter work week, but with the idea of people not being able to support themselves with a job, at 30 or 40 hours a week. That Guardian article I believe is the one that made the salient point that with increased technology and prosperity, we should (and many European companies are showing we can) be working fewer and fewer hours with better standards of living for all.

Profit is nice, and should be a goal because it means a) rewarding the person or persons who took a risk in starting the company and b) the possibility of long-term sustainability. But profit should not be made first and foremost, and certainly not at the expense of other criteria (not making products that are dangerous in their use or production, not mistreating your labor force, not using illegal or questionable accounting tricks, etc.). Profit is the the bonus, the perk, when a well-run company provides good jobs and a good product; acting otherwise puts the cart before the horse. When that happens, the 'system' needs to be tweaked to adjust its priorities. It seems that Europe long ago realized this, while the well-paid think-tank stooges in America were blinded by the dollar signs.

* wryly ironic use of the term "megadittoes", ha ha.
posted by hincandenza at 4:09 PM on April 30, 2002


All I know is that I have enough trouble getting all of my people on a project call at the same time and the only confounding factor is that we are spread out over four time zones.

I don't even want to think about what a pain in the ass it would be to get quick answers or decisions made if on any given day 1/5th of my team was out. Or if a third was working a 3pm-9pm shift.
posted by obfusciatrist at 4:39 PM on April 30, 2002


5.75 an hour

Imagine what they could be paid if the CEO wasn't earning 530x the average worker's salary.

In the USA in 2001, the average CEO pay increased by 7% while average profitability fell by 35% and stock prices declined 13%. How the fuck do those bastards justify getting any money for mismanaging the company?

Since 1980, CEO pay rates have increased nearly 1900 percent. Worker wages have only increased by 74% against a cost of living increase of 115%.

KMart just went bankrupt. 22000 people out of work. The CEO who fubared the company... why, he gets a $10 million severance package!

The HP/Compaq merger fiasco is laying off 15000 people. But the executives are pocketing $337 million. That's $23000 for each and every laid-off employee.

The richest 1% in America have 40% of the wealth.

There's tons of money out there that can be used to make it possible for every American citizen to get a good education, work a 28 hour week, be paid a good wage, and have one parent stay home for the first six years of a kid's life...

...but it won't happen, because the dirtbags who manage big business are too damn greedy to let it happen. They need their $10 million a year, oh yes.

Time for a revolution, people.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:53 PM on April 30, 2002


Work for the Australian government.

We get four weeks recreation leave a year (five is becoming increasingly popular under new certified agreements, with six plus airfares being the norm in remote areas) , plus a whole stack of 'other' leave (which varies from department to department).

For example, I get another 18 days of 'personal leave' on full pay per year (and if I don't use it, it just rolls over to the next year). I also get access to 'special leave', 'parental leave', 'bereavement leave' and 'cultural leave'. A big one is 'study leave', where we can take up to 5-13 hours per week to go to uni/tech/whatever. After ten years, I get an extra three months off.

The best thing is 'flex time'. You work 75 hours per fortnight (that's two weeks, people). When you work those hours is largely up to you (though most agencies specify 'core time' from 10am-12pm, and 2pm-4pm). You can take a morning off here, work back a bit later a couple of times next week. You can even 'bank' whole days (up to 8 per year - use 'em or lose 'em).

With public holidays (10 days), rec leave (20 days) and personal leave (18 days - a total of 48 days) I could work a four-day week right now without even trying.

I haven't even started on allowances - 'healthy worker' allowance (erm...yes, I could use this new GPS for an outdoor sport called 'geocaching'...), 'healthy team' allowance (let's go bowling!), district allowance, area allowance, retention allowance, first aid officer allowance, senior officer's allowance, clothing allowance, climate allowance...
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:12 PM on April 30, 2002


hincandenza, that's assuming that companies increase wages. Which they won't, (if we go by historical evidence) as they aren't going to be gaining enough increased efficiency/productivity to warrant a payrise to make up for the lesser hours. If I get paid X an hour, and make $Z a week, cutting my max hours will make my pay goto Z-5X. Unless I worked for a compassionate company or had an outstanding position, I will be bringing in less money weekly.

five fresh fish mentions a good point, the overpayment of CEOs. France passed a law a while back cutting down the work hours from most empoyees, which exempted upper management from any workhour limit. Tell me how that benefits the employees.
posted by Darke at 9:07 PM on April 30, 2002


I don't even want to think about what a pain in the ass it would be to get quick answers or decisions made if on any given day 1/5th of my team was out.

It's been my experience that "quick" answers or decisions usually suck anyway.
posted by ArkIlloid at 9:41 PM on April 30, 2002


Five Fresh Fish nicely put.
posted by onegoodmove at 10:59 PM on April 30, 2002


What is really galling to me is that in inflation-adjusted dollars, workers are earning less now than any time in the past fifty-odd years. There is simply no excuse for this.

The system is corrupt. Executives propose their own compensation packages, which are voted on at AGMs where the executives typically hold the majority voting share, either through direct ownership of stock (usually given by themselves to themselves in the first place) or through proxy votes because most shareholders don't vote.

The money they pay themselves would be far, far better used to grow the company and fairly compensate their employees and shareholders.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:22 AM on May 1, 2002


Tell me how that benefits the employees.

Just because one implementation of the idea was not carefully construed and executed does not mean that the whole idea is rotten.
posted by adampsyche at 10:31 AM on May 1, 2002


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