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8 Hours Labour, 8 Hours Recreation, 8 Hours Rest!

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series 8 hours work day

8 Hours Labour, 8 Hours Recreation, 8 Hours Rest!

How many hours a day you work for your company? Some will say 9 hours, some 12 hours or more. Some will say, there is no limit. Very few will say 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week. IT companies have put systems in place for each employee to log 8 hours, even 9 ours in the case of some large companies. Including commuting to and from work, a typical employee ends up spending more than 12-16 hours a day for the company, sacrificing regular sleep, family time and social life.

Why?

8-hours-work‘The more you work, the more you progress’ – we are told by the managers and HR. But, everyone knows how promotions, increments and better opportunities are decided in IT companies. Even if the whole team in a project work for long hours, will all of them get A grade? The manager will do curve fitting and some will get only B, C, D or even E.

Another argument for unlimited working hours is ‘IT employees get higher salary, and hence should work more’. Is that so? Definitely not. When you join a company, the understanding is that you will work for 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week and will get paid a salary according to your educational qualification, experience and other skills. Did anyone tell you at the time of joining that you will be required to work till 2 am in the morning or you should carry your phone round the clock to receive calls?

Even if the HR says all these to a new employee, is it acceptable? Never. The human body and mind need time to recover from the fatigue of work and renew itself for the next day’s and next week’s work. The renewal takes place through recreation, social activities, and familial time. By encroaching on this time, the employers impair our health and shorten our life span.

That is why, “8 hours labour, 8 hours recreation, 8 hours rest” was taken as the battle cry by millions of workers all over the world in the 19th and 20th century. We have come a long way from the horrors of industrial revolution when men, women and children worked 18 hours or more. The struggles of our predecessors won us 8 hours work day. Our present inaction keeps diluting it to 9 hours, 10 hours, 14 hours and more. What will we leave behind for our children in their working life?

To safeguard our and our children’s right to decent life, we need the 8 hours of rest outside working day. That time can be used to be aware of what is going on in the society and to struggle for our rights.

The struggle of working class led to legal restriction on hours of work in different countries. In France, for example, a work week is defined as 35 hours, in Australia – 38 hours, in US, Canada, Finland, China, Korea, Egypt – 40 hours. Even in India legally it is 48 hours a week. But treating the law as a waste paper, corporates make employees work longer. Now, Modi government is giving in to corporate lobbying and changing labour laws to dilute this legal right.

From another angle, why more and more advanced technology increases our work load and lengthens working hours? Take a washing machine, it reduces work at home. The IT revolution of 20th century should have made our life easier, right? But, Industrial workers are made to work 80 hours a week, office workers work for 50, 60 hours, contract labour work even more than 100 hours to earn enough to make a living. Why?

So, where do all the benefits of modern technology go? With today’s technological level even a system of 20 hours a week will be sufficient to satisfy all our needs. That system will provide employment to all leaving time to study, socialize and improve the world in thousand different ways. However, the benefits of development and our long hours of work go to line the pockets of the rich, idlers in financial markets and luxury for the few. Hence, the managers and share markets which drive them demand more and more work from existing employees.

The government and capitalists claim that they aim to increase employment opportunities. Then, why the company makes one person work for more than 8 hours? If there is more work, why not employ another person and provide employment to more?

Let us fight for 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week as our democratic right.

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