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John Passant

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January 2011



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Would a 30 hour week save Australian cricket?

It’s time for a campaign for a 30 hour week without loss of pay.

Such a week merely returns to workers some of the gains in productivity we have made over the last 30 years, and which the bosses have stolen from us. It will also help reduce unemployment and underemployment.

Calls for cutting the working week have a long tradition. In 1931, the Australian Council of Trade Unions called for a 35 hour week to combat 30 per cent unemployment. A year later they called for a 30 hour week. At the time it was 48 hours.

Both Labor and the Liberals have put in place industrial and other laws which have transferred more and more of the value our increased productivity has created over the last 30 years  to the bosses, not us.

While real wages have increased the share of national product going to labour has fallen markedly. According to a recent ACTU Economic Bulletin: ‘The profit share of national income is now near the record highs it reached in 2008, while the wages share of income is the lowest since 1964.’

Australia has a long working week. According to the Australia Institute in its recent study Long time, No See : ‘Australian employees work the longest hours in the western world; whereas the average for full-time employees in developed countries is 41 hours a week, in Australia it is 44 hours.’

The standard working week in Australia is 38 hours. So we are, to generalise, working 6 hours a week extra. Much of it is unpaid. In the same report The Australia Institute said, based on research they had carried out in 2009, ‘each year Australians work more than two billion hours of unpaid overtime, worth the equivalent of $72 billion or six per cent of GDP.’

Why are we working longer and longer unpaid hours when productivity and investment in labour saving devices are increasing?

The drive for profit and its reinvestment in more and more expensive capital compared to labour creates a tendency for the rate of profit to fall.

The logic of the system is to pour more and more money into capital at the expense of labour. Since only labour creates value this means, all other things being equal, that the rate of profit will fall. It is the very way capitalism is organised which creates its fundamental economic crises.

Increased productivity, reductions in the price of necessities, reduced pay and living standards, cuts in social spending and a longer working day (plus the devalorisation of capital in crises) can counteract that tendency for profit rates to fall for some time.

The more value we create the more it goes to capital and the more voracious the system becomes to work longer and produce even more to counteract declining profit rates. Capital sucks more and more life out of us for its own survival.

It’s time to kill the vampire and reclaim life.

That of course is for the future. What about the here and now?

Certainly a 30 hour week and retirement for all on the average wage at sixty is affordable.

In 1947  miners lodged claims for among other things a 35 hour week. The ALP in fact supported, in its platform, a 30 hour week for miners in recognition of the nature of their work.

It has been ACTU policy for over 50 years for a 35 hour week. In 1957 it even talked about a national campaign for 35 hours without loss of pay to “secure a just share of gain from technological progress and to maintain employment”.

Let me just emphasise that again. For more than 50 years  the policy of the peak union body in Australia has been for a 35 hour week. We now have a 38 hour week which is really a 44 hour week. In fact we have in reality gone backwards in terms of working hours. The ACTU moves in slow and mysterious ways.

The time for a union campaign for a 30 hour week without loss of pay has come. That will win back some of the gains capital have made out of our work.

According to the Australia Institute, and based on the French experience, cutting the working week by 2.5 hours per week would create an extra 390,000 jobs. Cutting it by 8 hours with no loss of pay as I am proposing would create even more jobs as well as win back the gains the bosses have stolen from us.

It would also address at least partially, to use management speak, work life balance issues. Things like anxiety, depression, suicide, alcoholism.

And simple matters like never seeing your kids or having time to play cricket with them and taking them to practice and games.  So our kids never develop  a love for the game your Dad and Mum used to play with you, let alone have the time to develop the skills necessary to create great players.

Let’ start the campaign for justice now. Demand a 30 hour week with no loss of pay.



Comment from juanR
Time January 10, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Here… here John. For once I am in complete agreement with you. Lets work less and play more…with the same pay. We can do it!

Comment from Dave Cavill
Time January 10, 2011 at 9:51 pm

When I started work in construction we worked 40 hours plus 8 hours overtime per week. In the mid 80’s we won a 38 hour week which meant we worked our normal 8 hours per day and had a compulsory industry shut down every month.
So we enjoyed a paid day of each month until the Hawke Government de-registered the BLF.
The BLF was taken over by the CFMEU and surprise surprise the RDO compulsory shut down was traded for double pay instead of a day off.

So building workers are now working the same hours as we did 40 years ago but for much less pay.

Yes, I agree we should be working a 30 hour week and you are absolutely right when you say families suffer.
When my kids were growing up I never saw them in daylight, there was no time to play cricket or do anything as a family because we worked 6 days a week 10 hours a day.

The reality is how can we convince a generation that hard work is bad for your health and well-being, and they would be much better of if they worked less and played more.

However you a drawing a long bow if you think that you can use this as an excuse for the Australian cricketers performance.

The solution is confronting the ACTU and demanding that they re-think and throw out policies that make them compliant to Labors bidding – test the no strike laws – like we did in 1968 when they jailed a Tramways Union delegate for calling a strike in breach of new legislation banning strikes.
Guess what the law was repealed because of the fear of a
prolonged national strike.

We haven’t tested the new no strike laws and workers are suffering because the bosses seem to hold the balance of power. The CFMEU motto is “If challenge we will strike” but they haven’t had a significant strike since the BLF was de-register by ex-ACTU president Mr Hawke.

Keating further fixed the unions by amalgamation turning powerful trade based unions into soft politically correct giants with no interest in fighting for workers rights.

In our day we had monthly union meetings for rank and file members and notices where posted on every site. Today CFMEU delegates are not even allowed to go on site and the monthly meeting for rank and file members is no longer happening.

We all clapped and cheered when the CFMEU marched in support of the Water Side workers Union during the Patrick’s dispute.
But how many of the marchers were rank and file unionist? None.
Not one ACT building project downed tools in support of the “Wharfies” all they did was send a few hand picked paid union delegates to the picket line.
Because they don’t have the rank and file support.

Winning back the rank and file is paramount if workers rights are to be protected. And the only way to win them back is to go to the workplaces every day, talk to them and win their support regardless of the bans that the government have on unions attending workplaces.

Well thats what I think others may disagree.

Comment from John
Time January 11, 2011 at 7:37 am

Thanks Dave. I agree. Well said. I especially like your comment:

‘Winning back the rank and file is paramount if workers rights are to be protected. And the only way to win them back is to go to the workplaces every day, talk to them and win their support regardless of the bans that the government have on unions attending workplaces.’

Rank and file control is in fact what I have consistently argued for. We workers need to take back control of our unions and run them.

The reference to the Tramways union is to Clarrie O’Shea in 1969. I have written about it on this blog.

The cricket reference was a hook. But Peter Roebuck makes he same argument.

Comment from Magpie
Time January 11, 2011 at 6:18 pm


Apologies for interrupting, as usual.

Part two of my series on surplus value (profits in pre-capitalist exchange economy) is here:

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