Tag Archives | Work

Smile, Work and Die

Pic: Todd Huffman (CC)

Pic: Todd Huffman (CC)

Via Truthdig:

The 300-plus people killed in the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh this week were not lost to an accident, but are among the many unnecessary victims of predatory, globalized capitalism, argues Vijay Prashad, a professor of South Asian history and the director of international studies at Trinity College in Connecticut.

Prashad informs the moment with an excerpt taken from Karl Marx’s “Capital,” the title referring to the component of the capitalist economy that pushes for maximum industrial output with no consideration for the laborer except that which is required to keep him or her alive and working:

[I]n its blind unrestrainable passion, its wear-wolf [sic] hunger for surplus labour, capital oversteps not only the moral, but even the merely physical maximum bounds of the working-day. It usurps the time for growth, development and healthy maintenance of the body. It steals the time required for the consumption of fresh air and sunlight….

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Supermarket Giant Uses Wristband Trackers To Monitor Employees’ Every Move

If other corporations follow the example of British mega-chain Tesco, the future of working retail will become increasingly similar to being imprisoned. Via Technoccult:

The former Tesco employee said the device provided an order to collect from the warehouse and a set amount of time to complete it. If workers met that target, they were awarded a 100 per cent score, but that would rise to 200 per cent if they worked twice as quickly. The score would fall if they did not meet the target.

If, however, workers did not log a break when they went to the toilet, the score would be “surprisingly lower”, according to the former staff member, who worked in an Irish branch of Tesco. He said the devices put staff under huge pressure and many of his colleagues using them in Ireland were eastern Europeans, with limited English. Tesco confirmed that the devices were also in use across its UK stores.

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Amazon Uses Neo-Nazi Guards To Control Immigrant Workers In Its German Warehouses

Has fascism been privatized? The Independent writes:

Amazon is at the center of a deepening scandal in Germany as the online shopping giant faced claims that it employed security guards with neo-Nazi connections to intimidate its foreign workers.

Germany’s ARD television channel made the allegations about Amazon’s treatment of more than 5,000 temporary staff from across Europe working at its German packing and distribution centers. ARD’s film showed omnipresent guards from a company named HESS Security wearing black uniforms and boots with military haircuts. They were employed to keep order at hostels and budget hotels where foreign workers stayed. “Many of the workers are afraid,” the program-makers said.

ARD said Amazon’s temporary staff worked eight-hour shifts packing goods at the company’s logistics centers in Bad Hersfeld, Konstanz and Augsburg. Many walked up to 17 kilometers per shift and all those taken on could be fired at will. On arrival in Germany, most were told their pay had been cut to below the rate promised when they applied for jobs at Amazon.

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Workers Spend 60 to 80 Percent Of Work Time ‘Cyberloafing’

FEMA - 32323 - FEMA photographer Mark Wolfe working at a computer in Findlay, OH JFO“They” are on to you, disinfonauts … via Newswise:

Businesses must deal with weary-eyed office workers who are sitting behind computer screens and watching cat videos, shopping online and updating their Facebook statuses.

A Kansas State University researcher studied cyberloafing — wasting time at work on the Internet — and the effects of Internet use policies and punishment on reducing cyberloafing.

Joseph Ugrin, assistant professor of accounting at Kansas State University, and John Pearson, associate professor of management at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, found that company policies are not enough to stop workers from wasting time at work and that sanctions with policies must be consistently enforced for policies to be effective.

The study will be published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

Cyberloafing results in lost productivity and could put companies in legal trouble when workers conduct illegal activity or unacceptable behavior like viewing pornography on work computers.

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What Would A World Without Work Be Like?

What comes next? Via the Guardian, Nina Power argues that work is becoming obsolete:

As with all major institutional entities – law, prison, education – to question work is to tamper with reality itself. As with law, prison and education, it is almost always “never a good time” to talk about reform, or the abolition of existing structures.

But as wages bear less and less relation to the cost of living, it seems as good a time as any to ask if the underlying fantasy is that employers will one day be able to pay their workers nothing at all, because all those issues like housing, food, clothing, childcare will somehow be dealt with in another, mysterious, way.

Against the backdrop of rising inflation, increasing job insecurity, geographically asymmetrical unemployment, attacks on the working and non-working populations, and cuts to benefits – a debate about what work is and what it means has been taking place.

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Corporate Workfare Arrives In British Classrooms

Red Pepper explains the United Kingdom’s new “studio schools,” under which teenagers spend half their day performing menial jobs for corporate sponsors for little or no pay, with the (accurate) purpose being to prepare them for the real world:

Launched quietly in 2010, studio schools allow private businesses to run state education for 14 to 19-year-olds with learning ‘on the job’ and not in the classroom.

Almost any business can set up a studio school by paying a voluntary subscription of just £8,000 to the government. In return, the government builds and maintains a school, but the power to run the school remains firmly in the hands of private sponsors. National Express, GlaxoSmithKline, Sony, Ikea, Disney, Michelin, Virgin Media and Hilton Hotels are just some of the corporate players who have bought into the scheme.

Predictably, these sponsor firms only pay the minimum wage – and that’s only for their over-16 students.

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Are We Headed Toward An Economy Based Around Serving Rich People?

Via Alternet, Sam Pizzigati ponders the jobs of the future, with masses clamoring for the opportunity to cater to the rich:

We’re well on the way to becoming a full-fledged “servant economy.” Most Americans no longer make things. They provide services.

Young people can become engineers and programmers and spend their careers in pitiless competition with people all over the world just as smart and trained but willing to work for much less. Or they can join the servant economy and “service those few at the top who have successfully joined the global elite.”

In this new “servant economy,” we’re not talking just nannies and chauffeurs. We’re talking, as journalist Camilla Long notes, “pilots, publicists, art dealers, and bodyguards” — a “newer, brighter phalanx of personal helpers.”

Want to see the world? In the new servant economy, you can become a “jewelry curator” and voyage to foreign lands to pick up gems for wealthy clients.

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Smile Scanners For Workers Introduced In Japan

Soon the start of the workday will entail submitting to your daily smile scan, the Guardian reports:

A Japanese train company is scanning its employees to make sure they smile properly. Each morning, according to reports, the 500 or so employees of the Keihin Electric Express Railway Company have to beam stupidly into a camera hooked up to a computer. The machine then analyses things like eye movement, lip curvature and facial wrinkles, and rates the overall quality of their smile on a scale ranging from 0 (suicidal) to 100 (delirious).

Apparently, should the computer deem workers to be too gloomy it flashes up helpful advice like “You still look too serious”, or “Lift up your mouth corners”. It then prints out a personalised “ideal smile” for employees to carry with them and refer to should they feel their spirits flagging at any point during the day.

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Emotional Labor In The Happiest Place On Earth

BPS Occupational Digest discusses the model pioneered by Disney of what is termed “emotional labor” — the mandatory extreme cheeriness and masterful mood control which has become a widespread part of service industry work:

Walt himself, having observed frowns and negativity on tours of the grounds, insisted on Disney University, a mandatory training process for every employee, that more than anything else is an extended emotion regulation regime…trainees are taken through methods of managing facial and voice cues to maintain a happy, relaxed, and accessible approach. This is effectively a masterclass in surface acting.

However, research suggests that Disney employees actively involved in surface acting are more likely to experience emotional exhaustion. This accords with broader evidence that surface acting is hard work. Other research indicates that buttoning back anger is the hardest thing to do for Disney employees, and having to keep doing so is a major driver of emotional exhaustion.

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Riot Police Arrest Walmart Warehouse Workers On Strike Against Abysmal Working Conditions

Via Buzzfeed, activist Daneyvilla took an snapped photos as a veritable army of riot police cracked down on a demonstration by several hundred completely peaceful, largely middle-aged Walmart warehouse employees. From the workers’ website, the reason for the strike:

No one should come to work and endure extreme temperatures, inhale dust and chemical residue, and lift thousands of boxes weighing up to 250lbs with no support. Workers never know how long the work day will be- sometimes its two hours, sometimes its 16 hours. Injuries are common, as is discrimination against women and illegal retaliation against workers who speak up for better treatment.

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