First Published: Canadian Worker, Vol 3, No 8, November 1971
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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With over 1,000,000 already out of work, layoffs are scheduled to hit thousands more in auto, aircraft, pulp and paper, and virtually every other industry. To smash the layoffs, we’ve got to start now to build rank and file committees to fight for “30 for 40” – thirty hours work for forty hours pay – and force the bosses to hire on thousands more workers and ease the strain on those now working.
Even the bosses can’t cover up the fact that the world economy is slipping deeper and deeper into a crisis which looks like the ’30s all over again. Bosses’ overproduction can’t be absorbed by working peoples’ lousy wages, but the bosses are keeping up their drive for profits – on credit. Governments try to cover the losses by boosting taxes, turning out ever more paper money and waging wars, like Vietnam. But in the last few years, the machine has started to jam up; the bosses are in trouble. Workers know all about their “solution” to the problem: speed-up, layoffs, plant-closings, faster and faster automation, direct government subsides to prop up profits. But there is no cure for the disease. The system can’t be salvaged – and isn’t worth saving anyhow.
To protect their profits, the bosses are at our throats more fiercely than ever before. They’re using the situation – which is going from bad to worse – to eliminate job security for everyone, including the older guys supposedly protected by seniority. In auto plants everywhere the bosses are putting these men in harder jobs in order to force them out – out of a job as well as out of a pension that they have contributed to for half a lifetime. The auto sharks replace them with some of the over one million unemployed who are looking for work. The new guys have no protection at all, and are often fired at the end of three months “probation”. It’s happening in every industry, from GM Oshawa and Sainte-Therese, to Molsons, Dominion Glass, Domtar and Canada Packers. Often it’s the immigrant or French-speaking worker who is hit hardest – the one who’s last hired and first fired.
ALL THIS IS HAPPENING WHILE THE PROFITS KEEP ON ROLLING IN. While telling us to be less “piggy”, the big bosses are really tightening the screws on us to protect and boost their profits. Nixon has already backed his masters with a wage freeze – Trudeau will be next. When they talk about “more productivity” they mean speed-up: the one thing we can be sure is always in the bosses plan. The terrific speed-up in auto plants can drive workers to suicide on the line. The pressures of the job destroy what leisure time we have left. We have only one choice – we’ve got to fight back.
In Canada and world-wide, workers have always answered these boss attacks with a fight for a shorter work-week with higher pay. Some of the toughest battles in labour history have been fought over the demand for a shorter work week. From the 1830’s on workers have won “60 for 75”, “50 for 60” and finally the 8-hour day, 40 hour week. Nowhere did the ruling class ever grant this demand voluntarily; always workers had to fight hard for it through strikes, mostly illegal, and other militant actions. Workers then as now (Dominion Glass, Texpac, La Presse...) faced the bosses courts and cops, frameups, injunctions and many times the army, all while sell-out union leaders were trying to sabotage their struggles over dinner with the bosses. But time and again, workers have won, through rank and file solidarity and militant struggle.
But it was precisely this goal of shorter hours with higher pay that the bosses resisted hardest. A shorter work day at even the old rate of pay means a direct cut into the bosses’ profits, stolen from workers’ labour. If a worker – in an 8-hour day – produces enough in four hours to pay his wages, the other four hours are worked strictly for the bosses’ bank-account. If that 8-hour day is cut to six the worker is working that much less for the boss and it tends to cut into his profits. This is why the bosses fight so bitterly against the drive for a shorter work-week and pull out all the stops to prevent it.
During the Dunlop plant closing in Toronto where some 600 lost their jobs, the NPD gave all out support to union hack Phil Japp. Within weeks of the sellout, the Ontario government and Dunlop set Japp up as boss in a new little rubber sweatshop (non union). The NPD likes to whip up Canadian nationalism with talk of jobs being lost to the US. But unemployment is at least as bad there as it is here: over 27,000 US auto workers are being laid off this fall. Unity with American workers is a must.
A SIX-HOUR DAY AT EIGHT HOURS PAY – WITH A BIG WAGE INCREASE over and above the old 8-hour rate – creates more pressure for jobs. Many industries – steel, rail, postal, auto, glass, etc. – would be forced to add an extra shift. In 2-shift and one shift industries, bosses would immediately need more workers to get out production. Workers forced onto unemployment insurance and welfare – a high proportion of whom are immigrant – would benefit from the pressure for more jobs. This would spur unity of all workers, men and women, employed and unemployed, regardless of nationality, because it would improve the job security of those still working and help them to fight the speed-up that a reduced work force always faces.
The demand for a big wage increase must go hand-in-hand with this fight for a shorter work-week. Inflation and taxes are eating us alive. The goal must be: a shorter work-week and a raise in pay.
The bosses know this. That’s why THEIR VERSION of a “shorter work week” has suddenly blossomed forth: a TEN hour day, four days a week at the same old pay. They figure the idea of three days off would be bait, for workers to give up the fight for a real shorter work-week with a raise in pay, and prevent a cut in bosses’ profits. It would increase speed-up, wear out workers more (we’d need three days off after pulling four 10-hour shifts), make for more accidents, which already kill and cripple thousands of workers a year, and would rip to shreds the hard-won demand of time-and-one-half for overtime after 8 hours. This boss scheme should be dumped in the garbage where it belongs.
If the bosses balk with the protest that a shorter work-week at higher pay will make them “go broke”, TOUGH! Of course, the shortening of the workday from twelve and fourteen hours to ten and then to eight didn’t “break” the bosses, but if it did create more problems for the bosses, so what. We never saw any boss crying over workers’ problems. They just create our problems and make money off them.
Why are the bosses crying over our goal of 30 for 40? Because they want and need a huge reserve army of unemployed around to use as a club oven those still employed, threatening them with hiring those out on the street if they don’t speed-up or work for less. A shorter work-week, with its pressure for more jobs, works against this bosses’ drive for a large pool of unemployed.
Even when we win a shorter work week with a raise in pay, the bosses will look for others ways to make up, such as increased speed-up, which we would have to fight in turn. Only the final destruction of the capitalist system by workers’ revolution will enable us to stamp out unemployment once and for all, along with all the other rotten aspects of society, like racism, imperialist wars, drugs... Only the elimination of capitalism, its bosses and profits and their replacement by a socialist society controlled by working people can finally solve our problems.
The fight for a shorter work-week has always been put forward by the union sellouts as a “demand” on the “bargaining table”. The UAW, Steelworkers and other unions like to put this demand on paper at every contract negotiation – and that’s where these sellouts keep it: on paper. They always drop it like a hot potato; to win it would mean all-out battle, not some phony “negotiations” behind locked doors and some kind of deal worked out with the bosses to keep their cozy relationship going. To win a shorter work-week with a raise in pay would mean – as it has always meant – organizing rank-and-file unity in every shop, in every industry, and struggling against the racism and nationalism that undermines the fighting solidarity of workers in Quebec and in the rest of Canada. It would mean the removal of the scabby, do-nothing labour bureaucrats, just for openers. THE RANK AND FILE HAVE TO LEAD THIS FIGHT!
Committees must be set up in every shop, plant, mine, mill, office local and industry. These can grow to regional, national and international groups, for the fight for this demand is world-wide.
We, the workers, have the power to organize ourselves into fighting groups which will take no nonsense from either the union sellouts or the bosses.
This struggle will greatly strengthen us in our battle with the bosses. It will help us to learn through sharp class struggle how to go all the way and smash the bosses and their rotten system. And RIGHT NOW, it will step up the pressure on the bosses for more jobs – giving us in turn more job security, and more leisure time to spend with our families.
These rank-and-file committees would organize to SHUT PRODUCTION DOWN if our demands for 30 for 40 are not met. We must be ready to fight it through. Members of the Canadian Party of Labour are part of this fight just as communists always have been in every major working class struggle. The achievement of “30 for 40” will be a great victory for the whole working class.
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Workers who want to build 30 for 40 committees are already getting together. You can help. Get in touch now! 30 for 40 committees must be built and led by the rank-and-file.
This is going on right now in many cities in Canada and the U.S. We can build a really strong, widespread movement. It’s up to us.
In Toronto, call: 535-4526; in Hamilton: 525-6281; in London: 433-3082; in Vancouver: 299-4234; in Montreal: 845-5518.