Winning a Shorter Working Week
by The Shorter Work Week Action Committee
reviewed by Magnolia Bloomberg
This is a 50-page booklet of the forum at the Wollongong Steelers Club on June 28, 2000, which coincided with the ACTU Biennial Congress. At the time it was attended by more people than many of the Congress discussions. Not surprising considering that the ACTU have dealt with the issue of shorter working hours as an Occupational Health and Safety issue, at best, instead of adopting it as a core strategy. Jack Mundy gives an historical over view of the struggle for shorter working hours. He states that the demand for shorter hours has always been resisted by the capitalist class but that even in the convict days the work of convicts was limited to 50 hours a week. He says we have to raise issues such as a more equitable distribution of the technical and productive gains of recent times and for progressive sections of the trade union movement and the progressive environment section to come together as in Seattle. Wayne Sonter writes on the need for the struggle for a shorter working week to be a worldwide campaign. He says that gains are being made all over the world but that workers are kept isolated and ignorant of their own class's struggle internationally in an effort to limit our possibilities. Because the economy is global workers have to think and act globally. This will retard the competition between workers and the race to the bottom that results, and it will prevent the flight of capital from high to low labour cost areas. Capital, everywhere, every day, in every way pushes to make the working day longer, more intensive and labour more flexible. Therefore it is vital in the interest of labour to push for shorter hours, less intense workloads and the idea of a "normal" day — one that includes time for "work, rest and play". This is the only way to a sustainable socio-enviro-economy — through labour's emancipation. Dean Mighell, Secretary of the Victorian Electrical Trades Union, writes about issues and ideas arising from the success of the Victorian construction industry in achieving a shorter workweek. He explains how it was achieved in his industry, the importance of educating stewards and members that one person's overtime is another person's job and the need to plan for the long term and the big picture. This booklet is a useful overview of what is happening locally and internationally and what can be done in the fight for a better working life and a better quality of life for all. It is available from the Shorter Work Week Action Committee (SWWAC) for $3.50.
* * *The SWWAC welcomes your involvement and any contribution you can make. It meets every first and third Monday at the Transport Club in Regent Street, Sydney, at 6.30.pm and can be contacted by writing to PO Box 291 Belmore, NSW 2192 or email: email@example.com