Warning from Mr. Robert Reich ! Will we save the workforce from ‘hell’?

Readers may please recall the attempt of the present day rulers to bring in a legislation titled “The Small Factories (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Bill, 2014”, to facilitate the rich businessmen to exploit the working population with immunity and impunity. The details have been provided in the Post in the following link: https://flourishingesic.info/2014/11/04/828/

Now, Mr. Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labour to the Government of the USA, has recorded in detail how the businessmen of USA are exploiting the workforce there and how the latter suffers under the tyranny of improper labour laws. The Small Factories Bill would, in India, make the life of working population even harsher.

The rich want only profit and they are ready to go to any extent to achieve their greedy ambitions. But, it is the Government which must reign them in. It is a pity that the Congress was and the BJP is bending backwards to please only the rich. The article of Mr. Robert Reich throws light on the sufferings of the common people in the USA. In India, a land with curtailed human rights when compared to the USA, the situation of the labour will be worse, if the aforesaid Small Factories Bill is made law.

While addressing businessmen, in the year 1945, after the Second World War, UK Minister Ernest Bevin stressed on the need for providing basic economic security to create fairer conditions of living for the working population also. “If profit can be the only motive, the natural corollary is economic disorder, and economic disorder will bring you back to the same position you are in now, ever recurring, and future generations will again pay, in the same form or another, the bitter price we are paying now…” he said. But, there is no Ernest Bevin among Indian rulers. The Indian politicians are always willing to go the way the rich wants them to go. They do not care for the poor. Businessmen drive the politicians in the USA. But, they own the politicians in India.

Readers may decide what the future holds for India, after going through what Mr.Reich says:

Courtesy: Facebook and www. salon. com

Courtesy: Facebook and www. salon. com

“These days it’s not unusual for someone on the way to work to receive a text message from her employer saying she’s not needed right then.

Although she’s already found someone to pick up her kid from school and arranged for childcare, the work is no longer available and she won’t be paid for it.

Just-in-time scheduling like this is the latest new thing, designed to make retail outlets, restaurants, hotels, and other customer-driven businesses more nimble and keep costs to a minimum.

Software can now predict up-to-the-minute staffing needs on the basis of  information such as traffic patterns, weather, and sales merely hours or possibly minutes before.

This way, employers don’t need to pay anyone to be at work unless they’re really needed. Companies can avoid paying wages to workers who’d otherwise just sit around.

Employers assign workers tentative shifts, and then notify them a half-hour or ten minutes before the shift is scheduled to begin whether they’re actually needed. Some even require workers to check in by phone, email, or text shortly before the shift starts.

Just-in-time scheduling is another part of America’s new “flexible” economy – along with the move to independent contractors and the growing reliance on “share economy” businesses, like Uber, that purport to do nothing more than connect customers with people willing to serve them.

New software is behind all of this – digital platforms enabling businesses to match their costs exactly with their needs. The business media considers such flexibility an unalloyed virtue. Wall Street rewards it with higher share prices. America’s “flexible labor market” is the envy of business leaders and policy makers the world over.

There’s only one problem. The new flexibility doesn’t allow working people to live their lives. Businesses used to consider employees fixed costs  – like the costs of factories, offices, and equipment. Payrolls might grow or shrink over time as businesses expanded or contracted, but from year to year they were fairly constant. That meant steady jobs. And with steady jobs came steady paychecks along with regular and predictable work schedules.

But employees are now becoming variable costs of doing business – depending on ups and downs in demand that may change hour by hour, possibly minute by minute. Yet working people have to pay the rent or make mortgage payments, and have keep up with utility, food, and fuel bills. These bills don’t vary much from month to month. They’re the fixed costs of living.

American workers can’t simultaneously be variable costs for business yet live in their own fixed-cost worlds.

They’re also husbands and wives and partners, most are parents, and they often have to take care of elderly relatives. All this requires coordinating schedules in advance – who’s going to cover for whom, and when. But such planning is impossible when you don’t know when you’ll be needed at work.

Whatever it’s called – just-in-time scheduling, on-call staffing, on-demand work, independent contracting, or the “share economy” – the result is the same: No predictability, no economic security.

This makes businesses more efficient, but it’s a nightmare for working families.

Last week, the National Employment Law Project reported that 42 percent of U.S. workers make less than $15 an hour (*). But even $20 an hour isn’t enough if the work is unpredictable and insecure. Not only is a higher minimum wage critical. So are more regular and predictable hours.

Some states require employers to pay any staff who report to work for a scheduled shift but who are then sent home, at least 4 hours pay at the minimum wage. But these laws haven’t kept up with software that enables employers to do just-in-time scheduling – and inform workers minutes before their shift that they’re not needed. In what may become a test case, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman last week warned 13 big retailers – including Target and The Gap – that their just-in-time scheduling may violate New York law, which requires payments to workers who arrive for a shift and then are sent home.We need a federal law requiring employers to pay for scheduled work.

Alternatively, if American workers can’t get more regular and predictable hours, they at least need stronger safety nets. These would include high-quality pre-school and after-school programs; unemployment insurance for people who can only get part-time work; and a minimum guaranteed basic income.

All the blather about “family-friendly workplaces” is meaningless if workers have no control over when they’re working”.

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*NB: Workers across the USA are fighting for the minimum wages of $15 per hour. For more: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/live/2015/apr/15/fight-for-15-protest-workers-minimum-wage-live

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