USA: Factories Scrap 5-Day Week in Quest for Efficiency

ORLANDO, Fla. - Tony Moreno is an outgoing, churchgoing man and the father of three. But for most of the last five years, Moreno put in 12-hour workdays, including all of his Sundays, as a machine operator here at LucentTechnologies. Some of his colleagues at the immense, windowless microelectronicsfactory relish the schedule, in which they alternate three- and four-day weeks, because it gives them so much time off.``But that didn't mean much to me,'' said Moreno, 45. ``I missed goingto church. Being a family man, weekends mean a great deal to me. All my friends are off on weekends.'' Many of Moreno's co-workers like the nontraditional set-up because, in addition to long stretches of time off, they also receive premium pay.Like it or hate it, however, more and more American factory workers arebeing assigned the short-week, extended-hour schedules.

The key word here is "assigned". Wage-slaves don't live in a democracy which they rule; they live in a democracy in which the people who rule are those in the employing class. ``I think employers are concerned about getting the most out of their employees,'' said Marc Vallario, the Mercer firm's health and welfare expert. ``They also recognize there are other demands on employees' lives.So many are structuring the workweek to accommodate their productivity needs and their employees' life needs.'' Productivity (profit) comes first. If it happens that some workers find this "compression" of their sold time better than their old schedule, then it becomes all the sudden an altruistic act by the employing class.

Efforts are being made in Congress to speed the shift to abbreviated workweeks. Many companies want Congress to change overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 that require employers to pay time and a half for any work beyond 40 hours a week, with one proposal seeking a monthly ceiling instead.

Wake up workers. If the employing class wants to increase it's productivity by lengthening your work day without the penalty of overtime, you're going to find yourselves back in the 19th Centruy before long. If you want to increase your free time (freedom) try another route. Why not increase the finacial penalties for overtime from time and half to triple time.

``The week is getting redistributed toward work,'' said Jerome M. Rosow, president of the Work in America Institute, a research organization in White Plains financed by unions and corporations. Part of the price, he said, is the traditional weekend: ``Leisure is getting squeezed out.'' The impetus, experts say, is a redoubled emphasis on efficient production, the same pressure that has been driving the tides of corporate downsizing. It is another tactic to wrest additional profits and lower-cost production from factories.

The Lucent factory belongs to AT&T, which said this year that it would shed 40,000 workers and recast itself into three smaller companies that will soon become completely independent. One of the three, Lucent, combines AT&T's research laboratories and 14 manufacturing plants, including the factory here.

In Orlando, management is building a big addition and expanding the work force to 1,500, from 1,000. About 80 percent of the employees are refugees from AT&T shrinkage elsewhere. Inside, the factory workers, in white suits that conceal everything but their eyes, bake tiny deposits of metal onto paper-thin six-inch-diameter wafers of silicon. Factories in Singapore and Bangkok slice the wafers into the integrated-circuit chips that form the brains of computer modems and cellular telephones. Five years ago management decided that to hold its own in competition with wafer processors worldwide, it could not let its machinery sleep when people do. ``The equipment has to keep running,'' said the plant manager, Robert B. Koch. Before, the company had been running on a less-compressed week with four 10-hour days. But that meant that for several hours a day the machinery stood idle. ``The company eyeballed that quiet time,'' said Thomas S. Christian, president of Local 2000 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who helped negotiate the schedule with 12-hour shifts. As Koch put it, ``There were inefficiencies.'' Now all but some office personnel work the long shifts, three consecutive days that total 34 1/2 hours one week and four days that total 46 hours the next. Time and a half overtime pay is incorporated into wages that start at $6.91 an hour and rise to nearly $18.19, very high for factory work south of the Rust Belt.This may be high; but you should see the profits such wages permit. The employing class vacations on the Riveria for months on end while the wage-slaves dutifully increase their productivity on the treadmill of the world market. Thanks suckers says big Daddy, as he rests on his yacht. Everyone has one weekend day a week, Saturday or Sunday. To make the schedule work, employees also gave up two holidays, Memorial Day and Labor Day. Still, all the free days amount to half the year off. Workers say they appreciate having jobs, enjoy the time off and relish the pay. They also talk of being extremely tired.

Go to the library. Look for the newly published book, "Sleep Thieves".
Booker T. Thomas, 47, who is married and has an 11-year-old daughter, came here from an AT&T plant in Shreveport, La. He worked 10-hour days and earned good wages, but he had watched the number of workers plummet, to 1,000 from 6,500. ``I asked myself, Should I stay here and watch it close?'' Thomas said.``I didn't want to get caught in that situation. So I came to Florida.'' As a skilled technician here, Thomas earns the top wage. He works days, every other Wednesday and every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. ``I get fatigued,'' he said. ``But I got fatigued in Shreveport. I worked 50 weeks a year there. Here I work 25 weeks and make more money. Who can argue with working half the time for more money?'' Many other workers, however, talk of a struggle to align the Lucent clock with the cycles of their personal lives. One is Martha Toler, 34, who is single and the mother of a 9-year-old boy and a 20-month-old girl. ``I'm a B-grade metals operator,'' paid $14.95 an hour, Ms. Toler said.``I sputter metal onto the wafers. I work the days, 5 to 5. When I work I don't clean or cook. Everything's prepared already. I put it in the microwave. ``I get up at 3:30. I get the baby ready to go to the sitter. We leave the house at 10 after 4. She's dropped off at 4:30. I usually make it here 10 minutes before we have to start. Most people are in a daze.'' Ms. Toler said that to help pay the sitter $15 a day, she rents a room in her three-bedroom house. Her son fends for himself. ``He gets up at 7:30 and goes to school to 3,'' she said. ``From 3 to 6 he does homework, his chores, watches TV. Days off I take him to ball games. He doesn't like me working at all. ``I've been more tired and more sick than ever before. I get upper respiratory infections. A lot is fatigue. I have back and foot problems. But I had to take the job that takes care of the kids. More money, more pain.''

Rosow of the Work in America Institute said: ``There's always been a tension in our society between work, family and leisure. I don't think industry plans its schedule around the leisure needs of the work force.''Stick a pin there. Only if we organize to make them, will they do anything in our interests.

An extreme form of workweek compression is the product of something the experts call best cost scheduling. Under that concept people work 12-hour shifts for three days and take three days off. They also work days for 30 days and then switch to nights for 30 days. Typically the schedules permit two Saturdays and one Sunday off one month and one Sunday and two Saturdays the next. Four years ago A.E. Staley Manufacturing Co., the corn miller in Decatur, Ill., imposed the schedule. The union local, the United Paperworkers, voted 96 percent against it, precipitating a 30-month lockout before the workers acquiesced and returned last December. Other companies have devised less disruptive schedules that often permit more regular time off. There is the 10-hour day four-day week. And there is the nine-hour day with two days off one week and three the next. Some companies use eight-hour shifts on the five regular workdays but use separate teams of workers on 12-hour shifts on the weekends. Jerry Cashman, work-options manager at Hewlett-Packard Co. in Palo Alto, Calif., which is often cited for innovative scheduling, said the company had ``production environments'' in which different workers were on 10-hour, 12-hour and 8-hour shifts at the same time. To give management greater flexible in setting workers' hours, Sen.John Ashcroft, R-Mo., has proposed legislation that would replace the 40-hour week with a 160-hour month. Industry would still have to pay overtime for work beyond the 160 hours.

Can we also have "chattel slave zones" set up in the ghettos to provide employment trainin opportunities for our youth, suh? But with worker approval, managers could, for instance, pack all those hours into the first two weeks of the month and allow two-week vacations. Ashcroft and management lobbying groups, like the Labor Policy Association in Washington, say the proposal would liberate workers. A spokeswoman for Ashcroft, Doreen Denny, said, ``This proposal deals with a core concern of families to balance their personal and work responsibilities.''

Unions, by contrast, see the bill as an effort to restore the sweatshop hours of the turn of the century. ``He cloaks it in giving workers and their families flexibility,'' said Jane O'Grady, a legislative representative of the AFL-CIO. ``But clearly this is an effort to let employers get overtime without paying for it.'' Still, the old ways die hard. Recently Moreno escaped the abbreviated workweek at Lucent. He has shed his protective white suit and moved to one of the few eight-hour Monday-to-Friday office jobs. ``I love it,'' he said. ``I've always been a 7 a.m.-to-3:30 guy.''