In the act of this Tuesday in Defensores de Belgrano, The CGT spoke for the first time of discussing a reduction in the working day, without blushing for demanding at the same time a “social pact”. With the Minister of Economy, Sergio Massaabsent with notice, and without Pablo Moyano and unions related to Kirchnerism in the midst of disputes over the electoral groups of Peronismthe union leaders again avoided calling a general strike and a plan to combat the crisis that the working majorities go through.
In it document read In the act, the CGT raised “Trade unions in general and the Argentine union in particular also takes the lead to discuss a scheme of labor relations that debates the reduction of the working day, as an instrument that stimulates employment and better distributes the benefit capital extraordinaire”.
It is a novelty in the discursive turn of the trade union center, when some trade unionists belonging to the CGT, such as Andrés Rodriguez of UPCN, rejected any similar alternative some time ago. However, the need to reduce working hours is an issue in which “unionism in general” in the country and in the world have been debating for some time. The Left Front (FITU) In particular, he proposed lowering the working day to 6 hours, 5 days a week, to distribute the work between employed and unemployed without affecting the salary and with a salary that is at least enough to cover the family basket.
Likewise, that paragraph of the CGTS document was the only written reference to the subject, making it clear that it is not a question of affecting capitalist profit in any way, but of “better distributing” the “extraordinary profit”, and without proposing the means to conquer such a reduction in working hours or more specifications.
However, during the act there were two more mentions. the leader Carlos Acuna (service stations) was the first speaker and made specific reference to the matter, proposing “reducing the working day from 8 hours to 6 so that instead of having 3 jobs there are 4”.
Then, at closing, Hector Daer (Health and co-head of the CGT) proposed “to end the 48-hour weekly workday”, which he described as “an antiquity because the productivity of men and women multiplied exponentially”. “When we talk about productivity we have to start there because if a man and a woman produce much more than when they put in the 8 hours of work and the 48 weekly hours, we will have to discuss and change this.”
How does the CGT suppose to conquer the reduction of the working day without fighting?
Argentina has one of the longest legal working days in the world: 8 hours a day, 48 hours a week. This legal regulation has not been modified for almost a century despite the fact that it “changed the world”, it advanced productivity, it is produced more and more in less work time.
How many jobs can be created with the reduction of working hours in large companies? The team of PTS-Left Front economistswhich advises Myriam Bregman and Nicolás del Cañoestimates that only if the reduction of the working day to 6 hours, 5 days a week were applied, the 12,000 largest companies in the country could generate a million new jobs. This is what Bregman also stated this Monday in the act for the international day of workers called by the Left Front, as a proposal to end unemployment and precarious employment.
This was also stated by the young railway worker in France, Clement Allochoninvited to the May Day event in Plaza de Mayo by the Socialist Workers Party (FITU): “President Macron wants us to work 2 more years and live worse. We say that we want to work less and live better!”
But such a measure would affect the profits of the capitalists. His plans aim, in fact, to do the opposite: deepen the attack on wages by pressing for a greater devaluation of the peso and a regressive labor reform to make employment more flexible. These are the proposals raised by the right of Together for Change and sectors of Peronism and that find their maximum expression in Javier Milei’s dollarization proposal.
Entrepreneurs strongly oppose to any initiative to reduce working hours that seeks to distribute work between employed and unemployed. They cry out to the sky and repeat that it is not possible. It could not be otherwise. Any measure that questions – even partially – their interests and their profits will be resisted.
Thus, achieving the effective reduction of the working day will imply an organized struggle on the part of the working classas well as a control of the workers in the workplaces to avoid the maneuvers that the employers are likely to do. Union leaders, are they going to be at the forefront of this fight?
They are complicit role in the adjustment during the years of macrismo and now before the government of the Frente de Todos with the IMF, without fighting to recover the purchasing power of salaries that was lost in these years and which continued to deteriorate, without calling for struggles to face the layoffs during the pandemic, nor to put an end to job insecurity, which is what explains most of the jobs created, would seem to indicate the opposite.
The reduction of the working day, such as the one that achieved 8 hours in Argentina and in the world, historically was achieved with struggle. as raised Karl Marx many years ago, “the fixing of the normal working day is, therefore, the product of a prolonged and more or less covert civil war between the capitalist class and the working class” (Karl Marx, Capital, p. 361) .
Work less, work everyone: the proposal of the left
He Left Front Unity proposes to work 6 hours a day with five working days a week, that is to say thirty hours a week, without salary reduction and with a minimum salary equal to the family basket. The proposal aims to ensure that no one is left without a job. It is for all of us to work. But also so that we do it with all the rights, that is also why the proposal is to fight for the end of labor outsourcing, with the transfer of these workers to a permanent plant.
For the left, the proposal to reduce the working day is inseparable from the struggle to absorb all unemployed workers with the perspective of imposing the distribution of working hours. A large number of new jobs could be generated to end unemployment and guarantee genuine work for those who today have no alternative but to resort to social plans as a way of survival.
The generation of an army of chronically unemployed and destitute cannot be accepted, which companies use as extortion so that those who do have jobs are forced to bow their heads in the face of salary cuts, exhausting hours, greater intensity in the rhythm of production or other regressive changes in working conditions.
At present, with the development of technology, the working day could be progressively reduced, and the majority can use free time for culture, art or science. But for this, it is necessary to discuss who directs the production and according to what purposes. In the hands of businessmen -whose purpose is to improve their profits at the expense of the exploitation of salaried labor- the role is different. This is the proposal of the left to end the scourges that precariousness, poverty and unemployment are for workers.
The fact that the reduction in working hours is accompanied by a distribution of working hours implies affecting business profits to ensure employment. For this reason, more than a salute to the flag to cover up against the complicity to the adjustment as the CGT does, the demand demands an organized struggle of the working class. Its partial conquest will make it necessary to control the workers in the workplace to avoid employer maneuvers. The lasting and general conquest will necessarily raise the struggle for a workers’ government.
This proposal is also associated with the promotion of a public works plan to generate employment, but also to build the homes needed to end the housing deficit suffered by three and a half million families in our country for years. In addition, it would allow the development of extension works for the water, sewer, electricity and gas networks, or the necessary schools and hospitals, based on rational urban planning aimed at meeting social needs.