[OPE-L] absolute surplus-value in the UK

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Mon Aug 29 2005 - 10:04:57 EDT

Work until you drop: how the long-hours culture is
killing us
With the longest working week in Europe, experts say
Britain's health and productivity will decline unless
something is done about it
Audrey Gillan
Saturday August 20, 2005

In Japan they call it karoshi and in China it is
guolaosi. As yet there is no word in English for
working yourself to death, but as more and more people
put in longer hours and suffer more stress there may
soon be.

This week, an American survey concluded that long
working hours increased an individual's chances of
illness and injury. It noted that for those doing 12
hours a day, there was a 37% increase in risk compared
to those working fewer hours.

Ronald Reagan was wrong, it seems, when he said: "Hard
work never killed anyone." Death from overwork is not
a new phenomenon in Britain but it is largely
unremarked upon.

In 2003, Sid Watkins, a paediatrician who was
exhausted after working up to 100 hours a week, died
after injecting himself with anaesthetic in an attempt
to cope with his workload. The coroner at Dr Watkins'
inquest described the hours he had to work as "crazy".

In 1994, the parents of Alan Massie, a junior doctor
who collapsed and died after working an 86-hour week
at a Cheshire hospital, claimed that their 27-year-old
son was worked to death. He had worked seven days and
three nights, including two unbroken periods of 27
hours and one of 24 hours.

In the same year, British Airways pilot David
Robertson, 52, died while flying. Work stress and long
working hours were implicated.

The American study, published in the Journal of
Occupational and Environmental Medicine, points out
that overtime and extended work schedules are
associated with an increased risk of hypertension,
cardiovascular disease, fatigue, stress, depression,
musculoskeletal disorders, chronic infections,
diabetes and other general health complaints. In
Japan, most karoshi victims succumb to brain
aneurisms, strokes and heart attack.

Professor Cary Cooper, a stress expert at Lancaster
University Management School, says the risk is not
just confined to those who work more than 60 hours but
hits those that put in more than 45.

"If you work consistently long hours, over 45 a week
every week, it will damage your health, physically and
psychologically. In the UK we have the second-longest
working hours in the developed world, just behind the
States and we now have longer hours than Japan," he

Prof Cooper advocates "working smarter", not longer,
and introducing flexibility into the workplace.

He acknowledges that the Department of Trade and
Industry is trying to encourage business to adopt such
practices, but it is a slow process.

Derek Simpson, the general secretary of Amicus, the
manufacturing, technical and skilled persons' union,
agrees with Prof Cooper. "UK employees work the
longest hours in Europe, yet all the evidence shows
that long working hours are bad for our health,
equality, our families and for society. People's jobs
are by far the biggest single cause of stress, and
stress-related illness is the silent killer in our
workplaces, impacting on workers' physical and mental

"As well as being bad for individuals, our long-hours
culture is also bad for business because lower working
hours relate directly to higher productivity. It is no
coincidence that the UK has the least-regulated
economy in Europe and is the least productive in the
industrialised world.

"Yet while other European governments are aiming to
reduce weekly working hours below the working-time
directive limit of 48 hours, our government is still
desperately trying to keep the opt-out."

In a survey, Amicus found that almost one in five
workers was put off sex because of long hours. The
union found a third of people said they didn't have
enough time to spend with partners or children.
Community work, socialising, personal fitness and
hobbies all lost out to excessive working hours.

Earlier this month, the law firm Peninsula published a
survey of 1,800 employers. It found that four out of
five of them worked more than 60 hours a week and
revealed that seven out of 10 got only four hours'
sleep a night.

In her recent book Willing Slaves: How the Overwork
Culture is Ruling Our Lives, the Guardian writer
Madeleine Bunting points out that Britain's full-time
workers put in the longest hours in Europe at 43.6 a
week compared with the EU average of 40.3. The number
of people working over 48 hours has more than doubled
since 1998, from 10% to 26%. And one in six of all
workers is doing more than 60 hours.

Roger Vincent, a spokesman for the Royal Society for
the Prevention of Accidents, says that overwork
inevitably leads to lapses in concentration and
therefore accidents.

"Between a third and a quarter of all road accidents
are in some way work-related. That means that
somewhere between 800 and 1,000 deaths each year on
Britain's roads are to do with somebody driving or
being on the road as a result of their jobs."

In 1987, the Japanese ministry of labour acknowledged
that it had a problem with death from overwork and
began to publish statistics on karoshi. In 2001, the
numbers reached a record level with 143 workers dying.
Now, death-by-overwork lawsuits are common, with the
victims' families demanding compensation payments. In
2002-03, 160 out of 819 claimants received

The health and safety magazine Hazards has continually
warned that karoshi does exist in the UK. It said: "In
July 2003 the government proposed abolishing the
mandatory retirement of 65 years. The old notion that
"we work to live, not live to work" could soon be
superseded by "we work until we drop".

Nose to the grindstone in Europe's sweatshop

 The UK's long-hours culture means that on average
many of us are now working a 43.6-hour week. Our
counterparts in the rest of Europe do 40.3 hours

 The last seven years have seen a significant rise in
the number of employees working in excess of 48 hours
a week, rising from 10% in the late 90s to 26% now

 Women in the workforce have also experienced changes
to their work pattern. Since 1992 there has been a
leap of 52% in the number of women expected to do 48
hours a week.

 The number of people working a long week has also
jumped. Estimates from 2000 -2002 suggest that those
clocking up 60 hours a week have increased by a third,
which equates to one sixth of the UK labour force.

 We may be working more hours but many of us waste
the opportunity to take time off. Recent surveys
estimate that only 44% of workers use up their full
entitlement to annual leave. Reasons cited for not
taking paid holiday often include a heavy workload or
fear of upsetting the boss.

 The right to take a full hour for lunch seems at
odds with our modern workplaces, with 65% of UK
workers not using the full 60 minutes.The average time
for a break is now 27 minutes, and more of us remain
at our workstation.

 Source: Willing Slaves: How the Overwork Culture is
Ruling Our Lives, by Madeleine
Bunting Guardian

Unlimited  Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Tue Aug 30 2005 - 00:00:02 EDT