Economic Growth and the Emerging Imposition of Seven Day Slavery

June 7, 2014


Developments in the last few weeks have reminded me that it really is about time I edit Away With the Fairies and post it up online… assuming I can find the time because of those very developments.

I came across this comment on an airline pilots’ forum, dated 14th May 2014:

I am currently subject to 1000 hour a year, random roster, with 8 days off every 4 weeks, not necessarily rostered off days in pairs. In collusion with the local Aviation Authority, my employer has now made it possible to legally work 7 days a weeks. This has been made possible by redefining a ‘day off’ as a period of 24 hours for the purpose of preventing fatigue. This ‘day off’ can now commence one hour after the finish of the current FDP. Whilst a small buffer is further applied, its not enough to prevent working every day. And as a rest period can be part of a day off, no more old fashioned ‘days off’ are necessary to be rostered. I would suspect the term day off will subsequently vanish to be replaced by ‘fatigue prevention period’ or other such title. And before anyone tells me to, I have quit. I value my life and health above all else.

This seems to be a sign of the times; as the original poster says, ‘7 day working week has arrived!

First, the financial crisis and recession of 2008 onwards allowed the political managers of the global economy to impose the policies of austerity, whereby vicious attacks on the living standards of the poor and vulnerable are given an economic rationale. Now, the economic recovery in the UK affords another attack on our quality of life in terms of pressure to extend the working week, in the name of ‘customer service’ or ‘beating the competition’. Of course, Margaret Thatcher’s administration played a role in this process years ago, with the repeal of laws against Sunday trading: retail workers have long been among the most thoroughly exploited.

Nevertheless, I’ve noticed a palpable change in climate in the last few weeks, with a rash of proposals and pilot schemes for Sunday working for couriers and other workers – voluntary for now – with the implication that such a pattern of work will become compulsory. In the name of ‘patient care’, seven-day working is being imposed upon NHS workers. It is disappointing, but entirely consistent with their role as negotiators for the price of our labour, to see unions like the Communications Workers Union actively facilitating the further colonisation of our free time by the world of work, a role recognised in this satirical detournement of a TUC poster from a year or so back.

Future Doesn't Work

One reservation I do have about the poster is its failure to rest with the insight that marches characterise troop movements. Paradoxically, the refusal of work is in itself an act of demobilisation, if we value our life and health. To share a phrase from an anti-political blog: we are not going to war.

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