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July 02, 2014

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John D

We’ve been here before of course.

That was a good thread.

Steve 2: Steveageddon

Who knew that being a public sector Environmental Sustainability Officer or a Social Media Manager or a Journalism Studies postgrad would be so stressful?

David

I’ve no great interest in how people choose to arrange their working hours according to their priorities. If they can negotiate a schedule that’s workable for both parties, then great. What’s interesting, though, is how often the proponents of shorter working weeks insist on a need to coerce all employers and the working population, with all manner of unexplored practical and economic consequences, supposedly in the name of fairness and caring.

The proponent in this case, a Professor John Ashton, is no exception. “The country,” we’re told, “must switch.” Indeed, his preferences (for others) are needed “on a European level.”

Lancastrian Oik

That mandatory 35-hour working week has worked really well in France.

Anna

Hmm. Prof Ashton is 67 and at the end of his career. Coincidence?

Lancastrian Oik

'... his preferences (for others) are needed “on a European level.”'

Because he is one of the anointed.

AC1

People who work employ others, so it would also create more unemployment and further reduce wages.

Steve 2: Steveageddon

The blurb that goes with the poll is fun too:

"A leading doctor has recommended that the UK switch to a four-day working week"

Remember when doctors stuck to doctoring instead of trying to micromanage every aspect of your life?

"to combat rising stress and allow people to spend more time with their families."

What if involuntarily spending more time with the family would be stressful because it would involve having to explain that, due to Daddy's income dropping by 20%, Mummy now has to get a job and the kids will be seeing a lot less of her?

"Prof John Ashton said that the UK has a maldistribution of work,"

There is literally unlimited work to be done. What he means is work that people are willing to do for the pay others are willing to offer.

It's why you get Polish girls serving your frappuccino while we have millions of British people sitting at home watching Jeremy Kyle.

It's why all those people on Jobseekers Allowance were crying when the government asked them to put in some working hours in exchange for their benefits. Putting in a shift a Poundland is beneath their dignity, but claiming money for sitting on their backsides isn't, apparently.

Our good doctor seems to be under the illusion that there is a fixed quantity of work and that The Enlightened should divvy it up, the desires of employers and employees be damned.

"with lunch breaks disappearing, and people working increasingly long hours."

I work long hours through choice. Is anybody holding a gun to people's heads and forcing them to slave away over a hot laptop? No? Then it's not a problem.

"He also highlighted the problem of inequality"

Why is inequality a problem? Would it be better if we were all equally poor and miserable? Should we stop paying "leading doctors" so much to make them more equal to their patients?

"with many working too hard while others are out of work."

There's no correlation. Take our Dave Spart doctor for example. If he were to work longer hours, would that put other doctors out of work? And how many unemployed people have the ability or interest to become doctors, or fill in for any other job involving specialised skills?

Most people who work exceptionally long hours are skilled people or self employed or in a position of responsibility. That's why they work long hours - they're in demand and they want to earn.

Most long term unemployed people are long term unemployed because of their skill set, habits, and attitude.

Nikw211

The fifth day could be a community activity day

*shudders*

I'm not against people volunteering for the Samaritans or clearing snow from an elderly neighbour's front yard etc. etc. - quite the opposite in fact.

But "a community activity day" sounds - pardon my French - absolutely fucking awful.

Also, you have to wonder about the quality of the article when not one of the 800 odd words is used to make a reference to the 20% pay cut such a move would entail.

And - I don't know, maybe I'm being thick or something - but how does having people who do 5-day weeks go onto 4-day weeks in any way help the number of people Frances O'Grady says currently: "work part-time when they want a full-time job, leaving them struggling to make ends meet."?

I've known quite a few people who have gone from 5-day to 4-day working weeks (usually for family reasons but sometimes for study or health) and not once have I ever known the employer to advertise for a 1-day a week job share to cover that fifth day.

sk60

with all manner of unexplored practical and economic consequences,

Why train and employ 30 people when you can train and employ 40 to do the exactly same amount of work?

#SocialistLogic

David

Why train and employ 30 people when you can train and employ 40 to do the exactly same amount of work?

Because “people might smile more,” says Professor Ashton.

pst314

Who knew that being a public sector Environmental Sustainability Officer or a Social Media Manager or a Journalism Studies postgrad would be so stressful?

Did you hear about the EPA office in Denver, Colorado where somebody has been pooping on the floors? Who knew that being a mid-level commissar with guaranteed lifetime employment was so emotionally traumatic?

pst314

"A leading doctor has recommended that the UK switch to a four-day working week"

John Ashton has a long history of "social activism". I'm betting that he never did much actual doctoring and always preferred playing bureaucrat and telling people what to do.

Nikw211

Meanwhile in another far away fairy tale land called the art world...

Steve 2: Steveageddon

Nikw211 - If I wanted more contact with my neighbours, I wouldn't dress my vicious attack kitty like this:

http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/e7/08/6c/e7086cdb49b97e9a208cd242da9d83a4.jpg

Pst314 - this just goes to show that environmentalists smell.

Nikw211

In the comments section, John Rebelistic sides with Professor Ashton:

    I think we should go further and have a two day week.

    The problem is our economic system or whatever the hell it is is completely insane.

    A sign of a progressive society should be ever increasing leisure time. As technology becomes more advanced less labour should be required. I have a feeling that all the efficiency savings are not passed down to the workers though and get spent by the rich/elite/1%.

    There seems to be a lot of work done that we could easily live without (advertising & marketing for example).

Nikw211

I wouldn't dress my vicious attack kitty like this

Wow, Madame Fluffybottom / Miaodesty Blaise / Miss Miaonipenny etc. etc. certainly knows how to hit the neighbourhood in style.

Tim Newman

"with lunch breaks disappearing, and people working increasingly long hours."

The man's a twat. In the UK (at least in engineering offices) people eat a sandwich at their desk in order to minimise their actual work day, i.e. the time between leaving home in the morning and getting home at night. In France, they take a good hour or two for lunch and make up for it by working late into the evening. So if this dickhead wants people to spend more time with their families, he ought to be pleased that lunch breaks are disappearing.

Minnow

Remember when doctors stuck to doctoring instead of trying to micromanage every aspect of your life?

No.

R. Sherman

Once again, we witness the drivel spouted by those who have never actually employed anyone to do work for pay. It's all magic with these people. Here's a better idea: Let's have no work whatsoever and just let people create their own cash at home on their laser printers. We'll all be smiling then, I bet. It's a wonder no one thought of such a marvelous solution before.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to throw a virgin into a volcano in order to make this month's mortgage payment.

R. Sherman

And, apropos of nothing, the word verification for the prior comment was, "commonweal." Damned if Typepad isn't becoming socialist.

the wolf

They need a corollary survey: "What are you willing to sacrifice to work a 4-day workweek?"

It's all magic with these people.

Indeed it is.

Theophrastus

Before I retired, I would have preferred to work four days of 10 hours rather than five days of eight hours. Friday was never a very productive day. However, I doubt the Professor would approve of such an arrangement.

Steve 2: Steveageddon

Minnow - Well I do.


Right, so. The four day week... haven't we already tried this? In the 1970's? Under Ted Heath?

Did the three day week in the 1970's make Britain a happier, smilier place?

Lefties in Scotland aren't too keen on the Protestant work ethic either. The Jimmy Reid Foundation, named after the famous Communist Jimmy Reid, says Scots work too much:

http://www.heraldscotland.com/mobile/politics/referendum-news/report-urges-four-day-week-in-indy-scotland-to-end-culture-of-overwork.23946187

"The paper recommends phasing in a standard 30-hour working week over 10 years in the event of Scottish independence, with a legal limit to ensure no one works more than 35 hours a week."

Sounds like a socialist paradise. Who's going to pay for it all?

"The radical redistribution of work would begin with the Scottish Government imposing a shorter week on public-sector staff to show it was feasible."

That's insane. Nobody cares if the council paper-shuffling office is closed. But Scots will be highly pissed off when they find out their chip shops, off licences, and pubs are closed.

"Our intention is for a four-day, 30-hour week to be one part of building a more equal society and a stronger economy that utilises human resources effectively."

When they talk about building a more equal society, that's a massive hint to anybody who wants to make something of themselves that it's time to get the hell out of Scotland.

"Published tomorrow by the left-wing Jimmy Reid Foundation, "Time for Life" is the latest paper in a series on the Common Weal, the idea that Scotland can be a wealthier, healthier and fairer society by adapting progressive economic and social policies from the Nordic nations."

In the imagination of the British left, Scandinavia is some sort of workers' Valhalla. Shame about all the emigration of their best people, race riots, rape gangs and whatnot.

NB they only want to adopt the cuckoo-bananas leftie policies, not the more hard-nosed market-based policies that help make the proggie ones possible - like privatised education and emergency services, high VAT, no minimum wage, no NHS...

"Its authors include Isobel Lindsay, a former industrial sociologist at Strathclyde University and the musician and broadcaster Pat Kane."

A former sociology lecturer and a crap 80's pop star? I'm reserving judgement till Bonnie wee Jeannie McColl weighs in.

AC1

VAT is in no way a capitalist favoured tax. It's probably the worst of the income taxes (those adding the value) having the greatest negative economic effects.

DH

If I may interject, the crap 80s pop star is now a 'thinker' and leading advocate of some unfathomable nonsense known as 'play theory' and is therefore a veritable gold mine of pretentious left wing posturing.

All his big words and lofty teachings can be found here.

https://twitter.com/thoughtland

Earlier today, he moans:

This YouGov poll... If Tories likely 2b next UK govt, 50% would STILL vote NO?! Is this a Scotland you even recognise? God help us, if so.....

By which he really means WHY OH WHY CAN'T PEOPLE BE LEFT WING LIKE I TELL THEM?

Henry

Remember when doctors stuck to doctoring instead of trying to micromanage every aspect of your life?

Doctors on an ego-trip? Never happens!

dicentra

I remember when a doctor's micromanagement consisted of saying "stop smoking" and "lose some weight."

Which, oddly enough, directly correlated to the patient's health.

PROGRESS!

Tim Newman

Remember when doctors stuck to doctoring instead of trying to micromanage every aspect of your life?

No.

Question is rephrased to exclude those on day-release.

Nate Whilk

"Why train and employ 30 people when you can train and employ 40 to do the exactly same amount of work?"

Here in Rahm's Chicago, the Police Department reasons that 40 officers would need 10 more pensions and 10 more sets of health benefits, among other things. And overtime for existing officers is actually cheaper than that. Of course, with the amount of crime in a large city like Chicago, we really do need more officers.

Patrick Chester

I've worked 4 ten-hour days with three off. It's okay... as long as the three days off are three days off in a row. 9/80 weeks were also pretty good. That's 4 9-hr days per week, plus one 8-hr day every other week to bring the total to 80 hrs for two weeks.

Though I suspect they mean only 4 eight-hour days per week.

Rich Rostrom

Posted by: Patrick Chester | July 03, 2014 at 05:45: I've worked 4 ten-hour days with three off. It's okay...

Another interesting shift structure is 3 x 12 alternating with 4 x 12 (84 hours every two weeks). This has worked well for people in jobs that have to be covered 24x7. The advantage is that only four shifts are needed to provide that 24x7 coverage, and their work hours don't have to change around continually. This greatly reduces sleep disruption and other work-related stress.

Yeah, a twelve-hour shift is long. But nurses and other 24x7 occupations often end up working double shifts (16 hours). And they still have the stress of shifting hours.

David

It’s possibly worth noting that Professor Ashton, whose ideas are championed with not one but two Guardian articles on the same day, even prescribes what people ought to do on their extra day off. He knowing best, of course: “A community activity day, a giving back day… exercising… This is how you operationalise the big society.”

It’s also worth noting how strongly the professor’s dream scenario appeals to people with certain authoritarian tendencies. Many of whom, oddly enough, read the Guardian. People, for instance, who say, “I think we should go further and have a two-day week… There seems to be a lot of work done that we could easily live without (advertising and marketing for example).” Other lines of work and expertise are casually dismissed as unworthy of existence, regardless of demand. And again, note the paranormal “we.” They being the arbiters of what other people should want.

Karen M

a lot of work done that we could easily live without (advertising and marketing for example).

Can we add the loss-making Guardian and its columnists to the list?

David

Can we add the loss-making Guardian and its columnists to the list?

But imagine how dull the day would be.

Randy

I thought this was fun from the "Thoughtland" thread: "Former UK Labour Prime Minister Blair embodies corruption and war. He must be sacked." Maybe he was being sarcastic, and I just missed it.

Thornavis.

Rich Rostrum

Twelve hour shifts are OK if you can get a break or two. Before I retired my job, which was 24x7, didn't have any breaks, whether the shift was eight or twelve hours. It wasn't physically hard but did involve a lot of concentration and was safety critical, I retired early partly because that and the shift work were getting to me and I wasn't doing the job quite as well as I might have been. There are sometimes complications with twelve hour rosters, there were in my job anyway, for one thing it reduced annual leave entitlement as there were more rest days in the roster.

Paul Nottingham

Your previous article was about the New Economic Foundation pushing this. The last accounts I saw for this "charity" indicated that the average employee there was paid £38,000 per year. I don't know how many days a week this was for.

Nikw211

OT

This may not be for everyone, but this web comic struck me as being really funny.

Hal

. . but this web comic . . .

Oh, very cute . . .

Then again, sing along now . . .

Immanuel Kant,
was a real piss-ant,
who was very rarely stable . . . .

Steve 2: Steveageddon

AC1 - Yar, I'm not advocating higher sales taxes. Just pointing out the Scandinavian socialist paradises levy high rates of VAT to help pay for all the social programmes that British lefties so admire. And it's a highly regressive tax, usually considered by lefties to be a bad thing. Though I suspect income taxes are more damaging to the economy than consumption taxes.

DH - Oh my. "Thoughtland"? For some reason, his thoughts bring this to mind:

Dreams and Reality

I mean, c'mon! This is one of Scotland's leading "thinkers"? A pompous washed-up pop star with seemingly endless free time to tweet stream-of-unconsciousness adolescent Marxoid pish?

And not even one of the cool washed-up pop stars like Rick Astley or Chesney Hawkes.

The English equivalent to Pat Kane would be Bobby G from Bucks Fizz.

Watcher In The Dark

Would working a four-day week relieve your stress?

And there was me thinking stress was merely a social construct.

ac1

" Though I suspect income taxes are more damaging to the economy than consumption taxes."
VAT IS an income tax disguised as consumption tax (which are in themselves only deferred income taxes).
Value Added is a hint at what's getting taxed.

David

Professor Ashton, whose ideas are championed with not one but two Guardian articles on the same day,

Make that three Guardian articles. Today, Andrew Martin tells us that the public’s general aversion to the state limiting our working hours to a more “equal” and compulsory four day week is due to a “protestant work ethic, allied to [a] post-imperial crisis of confidence.” The notion of “hard-working families” is, he says, “creepy” and “suggests dogged morons with their heads down.” And while his arguments on the subject may not be entirely convincing, or convincing at all, Mr Martin says that his socialist solution must be “universal and fixed.”

When not sharing his deep wisdom in the Guardian, Mr Martin is an author of books about trains.

Thornavis.

Mr Martin is an author of books about trains.

His novels, about a railway detective in the early years of the twentieth century, aren't bad at all and he has never struck me as someone with a Guardian view of the world. The lead character in the books has a feminist wife but she also has social aspirations and is keen to push her rather unambitious husband into making something of himself, quite a rounded view of the people and society of the times I've always thought.

The phone interview with Professor Ashton is rather odd, he doesn't seem to mind that none of his questions get answered just thrown back at him as though the answers were all self evident.

I was annoyed by this, when describing the benefits of extra days off :

It could have something in common with the old sabbath, not in the sense of being tremendously dull, but in being a different sort of day

The bog standard view of the non protestant sabbath that completely ignores the reality of all the many things that still had to be done on that day, similar to the silly notion that there was more free time for the average worker in the Middle Ages because all the religious holidays. Middle class English leftists have a strange tendency to look to an imagined past as their source of inspiration.

Spiny Norman

Thornavis.,

Middle class English leftists have a strange tendency to look to an imagined past as their source of inspiration.

Which is precisely what they accuse conservatives of doing. Hmm...

Thornavis.

Which is precisely what they accuse conservatives of doing. Hmm...

One might describe the argument between English conservatives and English progressives as one between two groups of traditionalists arguing over ownership of a history book. There's actually often quite a lot of overlap between the two as well, although maybe not so much these days when the bulk of leftists seem to be teenagers, mentally at least. It's one of the saving graces of English leftism I think that it has this tradition of Romantic attachment to the past, even if it's an imagined past, it has saved them from the worst excesses of the continental love of brutal revolution. I would put Orwell in that category in that his conservative background gave him an insight into the nature of English life that was of no interest to the mainstream Marxists of his day.

I just wish they would realise that their take on the world is essentially Romantic and not an objective description of reality.

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