All Work and No Extra Pay?

Employers Overwork Staff Rather than Hire New

The magazine, Mother Jones, has an interesting article in its July/August 2011 issue on the “dirty secret of the jobless recovery.”

After a sharp dip in 2008 and 2009, U.S. economic output has recovered to near pre-recession levels.  The Economic Policy Institute reports that corporate profits are up 22 percent!  However, these gains reflect increases in worker “productivity” and not new hiring.

In other words, after downsizing as a result of the recession, employers  are now overworking their remaining employees rather than re-hiring the ones who were let go or creating new jobs. In a recent survey by Spherion Staffing, 53% of workers surveyed said they’ve taken on new roles at work, most of them without extra pay (just 7% got a raise or a bonus).

Not surprisingly, workers are suffering under the strain.

One part-time college teacher is quoted as stating:

“”I am exhausted … I can’t help my son with his homework because I am grading papers until late into the night. I get up very early during the week, skip lunch to save not money but time, and the workload never lets up. My employer uses and abuses full-time employees even more so than those of us that are hourly. My supervisor, for example, runs a large department. He was just promoted to a new, even more demanding position, but his position running the department will not be filled. He will now be doing what is a 60-to-70-hour job ‘on the side.’”

The magazine says Americans  put in an average of 122 hours more per year than the British and 378 hours (nearly 10 weeks!) more than Germans. The differential isn’t solely the result of longer hours—workers in most other countries have, at least on paper, a right to weekends off, paid vacation time and paid maternity leave. (The only countries that don’t mandate paid time off for new moms are Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Samoa, and Swaziland and the United States!)

Legislators should be concerned about the implications of this situation on the health and welfare of American workers and their families.  Stress is believed to play an important role in several types of chronic health problems-especially cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, and psychological disorders. Also, according to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, health care expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress.