Greens leader Richard DiNatale has today called for an open debate on the way we work. The IWW welcomes this debate, but we must ensure that workers' rights- and pay packet - are protected.
The Age has today reported Greens leader Richard DiNatale's call to re-open the discussion on the length of the working week at an adress to the National Press Club in Canberra. The Four day working week is a longstanding policy of the Greens Party, aimed at reducing unemployment while strengthening work/life balance. So far, so good. But something very important is missing from the policy: there are no protections for the take-home wage!
The IWW launched the campaign for the four hour day and a four day week in the early 1930s. A strong case for shorter working hours is made here by Jon Bekken, and a contemporary campaign is still going strong. Key to the argument is the assertion that any reduction in working hours must be accompanied by a protection of the take-home pay calculated on the basis of a working week. And why not? The evidence suggests we productively work for 3 out every 8 hours, a ratio that is set to shrink even further as automation replaces tasks formerly performed by humans. The rest is just dead time, from which the bosses gain nothing but the workers slowly but surely lose their lives to busywork and the appearance of productivity. Since we only do three hours of work, cutting hours will do nothing to the profitbaility of a business. DiNatale has a history of underpaying workers, but the Greens party must acknowledge the need to maintain rates of pay as they move forward with a discussion of cutting working hours.
A four hour day, four days a week frees time for genuinely creative and joyful living: healthy families, safe communities, and happy humans. But if employers are allowed to cut the wages made from a working week, the working class will be no better off in material wealth. It will remain just as hard for workers to buy their own homes, pay down debt, remain independent - and live those happy and fulfilled lives.