April 17th, 2014

Some French workers told to disconnect from employers while off work


It would be great if bosses would leave us alone at home, during family time and on weekends. But it is not the American way, nor the Brit way, nor the French way.

Recent hyperbolic mis-reporting stated that a new French “law” protected workers from bosses contacting them after 6 pm. Oops.

The real news was the inclusion in two union bargaining agreements covering about 250,000 mid-level managers in tech industries. Those workers are subject to erratic schedules, and up to 78-hour work weeks, unlike other workers (who average 39.5 hour weeks) despite a 35-hour work week limit on the books. And the terms of the agreements have not yet been approved by the Labor Ministry.

So, to reduce stress (a tiny bit), the new agreements with employers “oblige” (not order, not mandate under threat of punishment) workers “to disconnect from remote communications tools” outside of normal working hours, whatever those hours might be — not expressly 6 pm. In other words, the onus is on the worker to turn off the employer when away from work for at least 11 hours (and that includes sleeping).

This gesture is a nod to the European notion that quality of life still can matter. Workaholism is not accepted without complaint. French workers engage in strikes and work stoppages. The French take to the street to protest social injustice. However, one union official made this conciliatory remark to the NY Times

“We also wouldn’t like this to squeeze businesses and cause them problems.”

The fact that the roots of the workplace bullying movement were sown in the social democratic Scandinavian nations should not be lost on Americans.

Yet, American media scorn the French as if they are lazy and unproductive. As if an overstressed and abused work force is exemplary. I hear the chants now — We’re number 1! Americans meekly accept everything their corporate masters shove down their throats. And public sector unions, the last bastion of organized labor, are being gutted by malicious state legislatures and governors hell bent on privatizing America. Few fight back out of fear. Why?

The French are not to be mocked. In fact, French unions are trying to hold on to an eroding leverage themselves. The globalized world dominated by multinational corporations have convinced all governments to step aside and let businesses operate without rules or limits.

In Germany, Volkswagen forbade supervisors from contacting workers after hours and shut down its servers to stop e-mail and phone calls. Deutsche Telekom also invoked a communications-free time ensuring that managers have no right to expect workers to answer supervisors’ calls or e-mails while away from work.

It would be far better if Americans voluntarily unplugged themselves from their work-provided phones and devices. They couldn’t track us in our bedrooms with remotely launched laptop cameras. The NSA would have no record of our interactions. And we would sleep more peacefully. The trouble is that employers have convinced too many of us to be afraid, very afraid. Oh, well. Maybe someday.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, April 17th, 2014 at 1:18 pm and is filed under Commentary by G. Namie, Good News, The New America. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.



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