A step back, not forward
The Compressed Work Week Bill (HB 6152), hastily approved by the House of Representatives, allows employers to increase the working hours of their employees in order to decrease the latter’s working days.
Unfortunately, the bill neglects workers’ historic struggle for the implementation of an eight-hour workday.
In the late 18th century, in the advent of the Industrial Revolution, factories adopted a 10- to 16-hour workday for their workers. This practice was met with protests and general strikes by workers, and resulted in the May 1886 Haymarket incident in Chicago where several people died and a number of labor leaders were arrested and executed.
In the end, due to persistent clamor of the working class, the eight-hour workday was institutionalized and May 1 was adopted by many countries as Labor Day.
In approving the bill, our congressmen seek to improve competitiveness, labor productivity and work efficiency.
Yet, various studies have found that spending too long in the office resulted in a 40-80 percent greater chance of heart disease compared to an eight-hour work day.
In first world countries like Sweden, many companies impose a six-hour workday for their employees. Several Toyota service centers in the country for instance, have switched to a six-hour workday several years ago and have reported happier staff, lower turnover rate, and ease in enticing new employees to come on board.
In our case, however, we seem to be doing the reverse, turning back to that time when workers were considered as cogs of machines, to be utilized to the maximum at the expense of their humanity, to bring maximum profits for company owners.
REMIGIO D. SALADERO JR. Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center, 33-B E. Rodriguez Sr. Avenue, QC
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