Whatever happened to the 40 hour week?

Written By: - Date published: 10:54 am, October 21st, 2012 - 122 comments
Categories: unemployment, workers' rights - Tags:

Just a quick note on this story – about how for many of us the 40-hour week is but folklore.

13% of Kiwis are working more than 50 hours / week (that’s paid work, all you volunteers out there won’t count…). Waikato University labour market expert Dr William Cochrane points out about the overworked:

“There’s an increasing number working in excess of 40 hours a week at both ends of the socio-economic spectrum – in both very high and very low-paid jobs.”

Certainly those long hours are how our titans of business justify their salaries – also in the news today is the fact that Mighty River Power’s CEO is to get $500,000 for not quitting before the end of the year, while National privatises his business – but the stats show that a lot of the worst paid work harder.

Of course some would say they’re lucky to have work at all with 7% unemployment predicted over the next 6 months.

It seems you could connect these 3 stories quite easily – a better distribution of pay, allowing a living wage for the current working poor, allowing them to not be overworked, and that work spread around a few more of the unemployed…

But such a well run economy isn’t on National’s agenda.

122 comments on “Whatever happened to the 40 hour week?”

  1. Olwyn 1

    And as J. K. Galbraith has pointed out in “The Good Society: A Humane Agenda,” the term “work” is used to characterise two radically different, indeed sharply contrasting, commitments of time.” One characterisation serves to define a social position, (CEO, financier, scholar, TV commentator, etc), while another consigns people to the “anonymity of the toiling masses.” “It is doubtful,” says Galbraith, “whether any other term in any language is quite so at odds with itself in what it describes.” The long hours worked by the elite cannot be compared to long hours spent under a surveillance camera that is there to ensure that you do not eat a chocolate bar you haven’t paid for, with no security of tenure, and pay that falls short of freeing you from the clutches of the DSW.

  2. captain hook 2

    leaf blowers.
    exclusive schools
    trips to machhu picchu and mongolia.
    leaky homes.
    hardlee davisons.
    plastic replica hotrods.
    i-phones.
    round-up for home use.
    outboard motors.
    expensive metal for fat exhausts.
    you know.
    all the stuff for infantilising a whole population.

  3. Bill 3

    Said it before but I’ll say it again. As part of a workers collective in the late 80’s early 90’s, we individually spent an average of 8 hours per week in income generating activity. And that serviced the mortgage on 18 houses and provided us all with our market related material needs.

    And there just isn’t any compelling reason why that scenario can’t be created today. None.

    • RedLogix 3.1

      Yes Bill. I keep coming back to the idea that our pre-agricultural hunter-gather ancestors probably worked less than 10 hours a week to support themselves. For all the so-called ‘progress’ we have made in the last 10,000 yrs or so, life is not necessarily all that much better for most people.

      We’ve certainly traded off some things, our lives are arguably more secure, minor accidents and illnesses are less likely to maim or kill us, and we are less vulnerable to non-human predators. But we’ve lost a great deal of personal choice and responsibility in the process, because we are so much more dependent on the mass collective that dictates to us our values, behaviours and how we are allowed to spend our time.

      • Bill 3.1.1

        Don’t know about hunter/gatherers…I’d imagine it to be fairly time consuming. But medieval peasants toiled a fuck of a lot less time for their master’s benefit than we do for ours. And they had far more social power than we do, especially in the aftermath of the plague. And they did have infirmaries that were fairly sophisticated and able to carry out such procedures as amputation under general anasthetic. Surprsing eh? Not quite in keeping with the ‘nasty, short and brutish’ image we have portrayed to us when it comes to talking of medieval peasants.

        • Clashman 3.1.1.1

          RedLogix basic premise re hunter gathering is correct.
          One of the mysteries that anthropologists struggle with is why we changed from an relatively easy and bountiful hunter gatherer lifestyle to a much more difficult and intensive lifestyle of settled agronomists with its inherent risks of crop failure, disease and incursion.

          • RedLogix 3.1.1.1.1

            Well the thinking I’ve read suggests that the answer lies in something like the following process:

            1. One of the key features of the pre-agricultural lifestyle was that for millions of years humans lived in an ecologically sustainable balance with the rest of life on this planet. It’s thought that our total population probably didn’t exceed 1-2m.

            Infant mortality was likely in the order of 50% (an evolutionary mechanism in itself), simple accidents and illnesses before puberty combined with collective breast-feeding, meant that of the 6-8 full-term pregnancies a woman might have in her lifetime, only on average 2-3 survived to adult-hood which is close to balance.

            2. Agriculture changed this balance dramatically. Farming requires labour not only to plant and tend the crop … but crucially … demands soldiers to protect it and the territory around it. This requires labour specialisation, and intensified social hierarchy in order to enforce it.

            3. Field workers live a hard and difficult life and in the case of several bad crop years will die. Soldiers also have unfortunate tendency to die. Therefore you need more population growth to sustain your population. The only way to do this is to subjugate your female population (because you now have the economic and military tools to do this) and make them and their children the property of the more powerful males. You wean the babies earlier, and use wet-nurses to allow more frequent pregnancies.

            4. This is the genesis of hierarchical inequality, patriarchy and property as the basis of human culture. These larger more intensified social units are no longer in balance with their environment, internally within their own power structures, nor externally among themselves. Slavery and warfare are normal features of life into which all of human life is subsumed. Your worth as a human is measured solely by your value to the hierarchy.

            5. There were some positives of course; the gradual evolution of the arts, sciences, technology and systems of ethics are an enduring legacy of this process. We are now the first post-evolutionary species on this planet. We now have the tools to understand ourselves and reality in a way that gives us choices about ourselves… choices utterly beyond the reach of our hunter-gather ancestors.

            I think at some level the idealist in most of us realise how much of a price we’ve unthinkingly paid for this ‘civilisation’, and perhaps for the first time in 10,000 years we are in a position to think about and question this cost intelligently.

            • Bill 3.1.1.1.1.1

              Well, australian aborigines chose not to farm. And they developed art and so on.

              Not sure about needing soldiers to protect crops. That assumes people are just bad bastards out to rip off one and all – a back projection from our current situation perhaps?

              Also, in Celtic society (and probably others too) females weren’t the property of males. And wealth transferred through the matrilinear side of relationships. That changed with the Romans and was probably ‘naturally’ maintained and encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church in later years.

              And while I understand the increased prevalence of disease with animal husbandry, growing food just ain’t that ‘hard and difficult’ and was definately supplemented with wild flora and fauna from the commons before the enclosures.

              If your historical analysis was correct, then there would be little argument against just topping ourselves now – what with it being all so inevitable and unavoidable and ‘just a part of human nature’.

              • RedLogix

                Well, australian aborigines chose not to farm. And they developed art and so on.

                umm … if you want to make a full equivalence between aboriginal art (while unique and vital in it’s own right) with everything else that has been going on in the rest of the world for the last 10k years then knock yourself out Bill.

                Not sure about needing soldiers to protect crops.

                It’s more subtle than this. Hunter-gathers didn’t care about place. If they used up the easy resources in one location they just moved a few km to a new place. Human population density was so very low that this was never an issue.

                But crops tie you to one location, suddenly place becomes important. Humans now have an investment and commitment that they want to defend from ‘outsiders’. Not so much from ‘bad people’ but competing hierarchies, either internal or external.

                Also, in Celtic society (and probably others too) females weren’t the property of males.

                But as you say, the patriarchal Romans put paid to that. So very few non-patriarchal societies survived this process that in modern times we have come to think of patriarchy and normal and inevitable.

                And while I understand the increased prevalence of disease with animal husbandry, growing food just ain’t that ‘hard and difficult’ and was definately supplemented with wild flora and fauna from the commons before the enclosures.

                Well there is good evidence that the transition to grains and less wild food uniformly had very bad effects on the strength, stature, health and life span (as distinct from life expectancy) of most humans. And while what you say is true about the importance of supplementing from wild sources, once a population density in a fixed location exceeds the carrying capacity of that location … then when bad years come along suddenly all that ‘easy to grow food’ becomes an awful lot harder.

                what with it being all so inevitable and unavoidable and ‘just a part of human nature’.

                Actually I was trying to make exactly the opposite point. The greed, cupidity, brutality and sloth that we have been told is our ‘human nature’ is simply one aspect of who we are … an aspect that property ownership and hierarchy amplifies and exploits. It’s more a consequence of our social constructs than it is innate or inevitable.

                My argument is that once you see and understand that humans evolved for millions of years under a completely different construct that you can see some of the choices we have abandoned at a huge and tragic cost.

                • Rogue Trooper

                  Yes. the propaganda of man.
                  I always enjoy reading your posts RL

                • Bill

                  And so it seems we agree on the broad point to be made though maybe not the precise nature of details that might contribute to the point.

                  My response to your 3.1.1.1.1, was fuelled by a suspicion that current cultural mores/structures etc were being overlaid onto historical contexts and being used as a lens with which to explain those historical contexts and their (inevitable) trajectory back to the present.

              • Foreign Waka

                There were two things that influenced everything greatly – better nutrition which had the consequence of living longer, and medical advances that increased the age of a person dramatically. It was the Industrial revolution which showed the biggest difference in the average life expectancy. The 20th century saw the biggest jump with the introduction of a public health system. Vaccinations for example were the main cause of children mortality rate declined.
                However, one should not mix life expectancy measure with the ability to live to old age. It was possible to grow old, provided the person had good nutrition and was lucky enough to avoid simple infections, war and being a women in child bearing age.

    • Colonial Viper 3.2

      Will Labour re-introduce penalty rates on those who work more than 35 hours per week to encourage more equitable distribution of available employment, in conjunction with making the income from a 35 hour per week job a living wage? (min wage $16 – $17 /hr).

      • Te Reo Putake 3.2.1

        Re-introduce, CV? I wasn’t aware that we ever had such a thing. More likely is that the Shearer government will allow unions the ability to negotiate such things into collectives.

        • Colonial Viper 3.2.1.1

          Oh great, so maybe 400,000 workers will get those provisions, if their employers allow it.

          • Te Reo Putake 3.2.1.1.1

            Clearly, it won’t affect you, comrade, given your zero hour working week, but strengthening unions has a knock on effect for all workers. Usually, that means unions get a gain in bargaining, which later flows on to all workers.
             
            And remember, the 35 hr thing is just your fantasy, not a policy of any relevant union or political party that I’m aware of, so whether it applies to 400k workers or all of them is a moot point.
             
            Hate to post and run, but footballs don’t kick themselves, so off to the park to build up a thirst before the Nix demolish the Roar. Ciao for now!

            • Colonial Viper 3.2.1.1.1.1

              Mate, you’re not much more than a centrist apologist.

              Being pro-Union I’m not surprised that you regard the unemployed with just lip service.

              And remember, the 35 hr thing is just your fantasy

              You’re a fucking tool. Take a look at the OECD stats for the average working week and then decide where NZ workers should be.

          • RedLogix 3.2.1.1.2

            At present we only measure value with money. Because only a limited range of human activities that can be exploited for gain by others are paid with money; then we only place a value on them. Which means that people who do other things are unvalued.

            Arguably what we have is not so much poverty … as a poverty of values.

            The fact is as Bill points out the amount of monetised activity we need to support ourselves is probably pretty modest, 10-20 hours per week. That is not the important thing … what is critical is how we are enabled to spend the balance of our lives, our playtime.

            Poverty can be defined as the inability to choose rewarding and creative things to do in your ‘playtime’; because you lack the economic, cultural or spiritual resources to make good use of that time.

            By contrast in our modern world, most of us are either ‘time poor’ or ‘money poor’ … both of which amount to the same thing; ‘play-time poor’.

        • prism 3.2.1.2

          TRP Surely the reference is to the penalty rates that we used to have that preserved a definite time off in the weekend or at early or late hours when working such hours was classified as ‘anti-social hours’ The time and a half provisions forced employers to make rational assessments of whether it was viable to stay ‘open all hours’. If we had controls on trading where retail was open on Saturday till 1 pm, and hardware and plant shops and so on shut Saturday and Sunday at 3 pm, it would give a fair go to all the public and the tourists who don’t want to stroll shuttered streets.

          • Te Reo Putake 3.2.1.2.1

            Nothing wrong with penal rates; I think you’ll find a fair percentage of union collectives still have them. CV made a claim that doesn’t stack up to have a pop at Labour. That’s all I’m saying. That, and CV should get a job. Then his pronouncements on what Labour should do about employment rights might have some credibility.
             
            For mine, not only do I want a forty hour week with hefty penalties for OT, I want a return to the income levels that allowed one worker’s wage to sustain a family.
             
            Edit: DtB, yep, the ‘good faith’ ERA is meaningless without proper sanctions against employers who don’t give a flying one for the rules, so a shift in the balance toward workers’ power is needed.

            • Colonial Viper 3.2.1.2.1.1

              CV made a claim that doesn’t stack up to have a pop at Labour. That’s all I’m saying. That, and CV should get a job. Then his pronouncements on what Labour should do about employment rights might have some credibility.

              I see you’ve picked up Shearer’s line, lock stock and barrel.

              “You’re nothing much if you haven’t got a job”.

              • Te Reo Putake

                You’re not unemployed, CV. You claim to be living off the largesse of your in laws, remember? If true, you are a bourgeois parasite, pal, and in no position to offer advice to either the employed or the unemployed.

            • prism 3.2.1.2.1.2

              CV
              You might feel superior to Colonial Viper and his pronouncements but IMO you are mistaken in that attitude.

        • Draco T Bastard 3.2.1.3

          Re-introduce, CV?

          Yes, re-introduce. We used to have them back in the 1980s and before. It’s what defined the 40 hour week. Work more than 40 hours and get time and a half, more than 50 hours (IIRC) and it went to double time.

          More likely is that the Shearer government will allow unions the ability to negotiate such things into collectives.

          It needs to be a state directive else we won’t have a level playing field between employers.

          • Colonial Viper 3.2.1.3.1

            I wonder why TRP is a unionist who doesn’t remember these basics. Odd.

            • Te Reo Putake 3.2.1.3.1.1

              35 hours, CV? 35 hours?

              • Bill

                5 x 1 hour long lunch breaks perhaps? Subtracted from the 40? Equals 35?

                And TPK. The distastful comment about the largess of somebody’s inlaws….are you a union organiser taking no more than the average pay rate of the workers you represent? If so, good on you. If not, then what’s with the parasite comment? And am I – who does not have a job and will not have a job – who is living off the largess of society (hugely circumscribed by the government though that is), a parasite too?

                • Te Reo Putake

                  Nope, it’s specific to CV’s circumstances, as he claims them to be. Nice long bowing on the 35 hour thing, though, Bill.

      • Bill 3.2.2

        Today, a full time job is considered to be 37.5 hours. And that equates with the loss of 1/2 an hour on the formally 1 hour long lunch break. If a 40 hour week included the 1 hour paid lunch breaks (as they used to be), then a 35 hour working week with penal rates kicking in after 35 hours ‘on the job’ may well have existed.

        Just depends how you want to slice and dice the numbers.

        But if that nice Mr Shearer and his benevolent paternalism will ‘allow’ unions the abilty to negotiate C.A.’s, then, really, what is the problem? Aside from a fuck of a lot.

        • Colonial Viper 3.2.2.1

          But if that nice Mr Shearer and his benevolent paternalism will ‘allow’ unions the abilty to negotiate C.A.’s, then, really, what is the problem? Aside from a fuck of a lot.

          Yep. 😈

      • blue leopard 3.2.3

        I agree with the idea to shorten the working week in order to encourage more equitable distribution of available employment.

        This would be excellent and would lead on to the added advantage of allowing all to see how the hostility toward welfare recipients for the unhelpful and narrow minded myopic attitude that it are.

        We would no longer have to be bored to death by the welfare recipient bashing issues that arise every election time-conducted solely in order to get votes-and perhaps elections could begin to be conducted around positive and progressive issues instead.

      • “Will Labour re-introduce penalty rates on those who work more than 35 hours per week to encourage more equitable distribution of available employment”

        Indeed, I should be punished for enjoying my job and working outside my contracted hours.

        • blue leopard 3.2.4.1

          @Contrarian

          Not punished,

          Just encouragement to
          ~explore other interests
          ~ enjoy more leisure time

          And there is also the whole share and share alike view to enjoy.

          🙂

          • populuxe1 3.2.4.1.1

            No, that’s punished. I don’t need to be coerced into doing thinks I enjoy doing. This is one of those ideas where good social policy flings itself headlong into fascism.

            • Colonial Viper 3.2.4.1.1.1

              Fighting for lower pay and longer hours for yourself?

              Go on. I suspect you’ll be an extreme minority

              • populuxe1

                Well no, I’m a freelancer so it doesn’t really apply to me and it never ceases to amaze me how you are able to read things into what I say that simply are not there, CV.
                I said nothing about lower wages, and I believe if people wish to work, they should be allowed to for exactly the same reasons I endorse the minimum wage and reject youth rates. Telling people they can’t work at something they enjoy is every bit as fascist as forcing people into work they’re not cut out for.

              • BM

                CV.
                For a Man who’s work load consists of sexually pleasuring some sugar daddy a couple of times a week, I’m not quite grasping the reason why you’re so passionate about the rights of workers.
                Is it guilt?

            • TheContrarian 3.2.4.1.1.2

              “Just encouragement to
              ~explore other interests
              ~ enjoy more leisure time”

              I make my own decisions and have plenty of interests and have plenty of leisure time. My work is one of my interests, it is intellectually stimulating and enjoyable. Therefore I work it to my own schedule and sometimes that is more than 40 hours per week. And to tell me I can’t or to punish for it is to restrict my freedoms.

              • populuxe1

                Well said. +1

              • @Populuxe & Contrarian

                Enough of the indignant affront already.

                “I work it to my own schedule”

                Are you inferring that you are self employed? I note that Populuxe1 responds with offence and then mentions he/she is self-employed. There was a bit of humour in my response, however I do not feel good humoured about people with their heads stuck firmly up their arses taking offense and arguing a point to which wouldn’t even effect their situations.

                It would be good if more NZers would wake up to the fact that when people DO NOT HAVE WORK, this curbs their freedom and threatens their health and life. Working long hours also does the similar (both highly paid and low paid long hours although obviously low paid has worse effects).

                Could more people wake up to the fact that the people who do not have work are increasingly being verbally/emotionally abused for their misfortune. This abuse is fairly well instigated by our successive Governments. Governments whom are in a position to eradicate unemployment by bringing in measures such as the one suggested (and many others) however appear to prefer to create worse and worse circumstances for those that find themselves out of a job, cultivate punitive attitudes within their staff and the wider public and never fail to apply bullshit propaganda each election-time so as to get the votes to get themselves a job.

                This situation absolutely sucks and Contrarian & Populuxe1, you have a problem with the working hour week being shortened because what? You might have to pay yourself over-time?

                “Freedom” Have you ever considered how much freedom someone has that hasn’t a job? Same goes for rights.

                “Fascism” Flinging words like fascism around. What? I suggest you take a walk in some others shoes and see if you retain your la-la land views that fascist behavior isn’t already well and truly being applied to those in the worst circumstances in New Zealand.

                “Long live bigots freedom” is what hear loud and clear from expressions of concern regarding any change which might positively effect the lives of those without a job.

                • I don’t get paid overtime and any work I do at home is by choice, not compulsion and I do it not because it needs doing but because I enjoy it.

                  I don’t get the long rambling speech about people who are unemployed. It’s irrelevant.

                  • @ Contrarian

                    Changing the working week would likely lead to either people being paid more for their labour or jobs being created (motivated by employers unwilling to pay overtime. This type of approach would lead to better circumstances for many people.

                    The long rambling speech, which you didn’t “get” was to remind you that there is a world outside your window, where people are in a lot worse situations than you are.

                    By your description you have a good situation, with which you are happy about and you have supplied that as a reason for not changing the working week because your freedoms might be restricted (although by the sound of it they wouldn’t). By citing your situation in this manner, you appear happy to leave others in very restricted circumstances. I was trying to remind you of the reality of others which I hoped you were omitting to take into account (rather than being completely uncaring of others circumstances.)

                    To cite your own pleasant life situation as a reason to stop others from experiencing something better and crying foul to the suggested policy that would raise others quality of life out of a delusional fear that it might restrict your circumstances is precisely the type of attitude that is leading to increasing numbers of New Zealanders circumstances degenerating and I’m guessing that it won’t be until substantially more people are experiencing the ‘bite’ that anything will start improving.

                    This state of affairs is a crying shame in my opinion.

                    • “The long rambling speech, which you didn’t “get” was to remind you that there is a world outside your window, where people are in a lot worse situations than you are.”

                      I know that and my situation is good.. So leave me alone and help those that need it. There is nothing in my situation that needs changing – I’m not the problem

                    • Actually, The Contrarian, you are part of the problem, while you use your time and good fortune to write in citing fallacious reasons for not applying positive policy changes that would better the circumstances of many people. Very much part of the problem for the reasons stated above.

                    • So tell me, what policy, specifically, would you want to implement and what effect will this have on me, someone who works and is paid for 40 hours yet will sometimes work more than that, unpaid, by choice?

                    • Well to keep on topic, as my comment @ 3.2.3 said, I support the move to make the working week shorter.

                      The way that will effect you depends on your employer.

                      I am guessing you will either lose 5 hours pay (if it was put down to 35hrs) or you would gain pay from the overtime, or your boss might chose to “lower” your wage (if that is what you are on) in order to end up paying you the same amount, despite the change in policy. If you are paid well, you might agree to that. If you are not paid well you would have recourse to do something about it.

                      (I would like to see more than this type of policy, I mean one of the more effective would be to address the tax evasion of the very wealthy, corporations et al, address the unfair advantages that they have. Addressing this type of issue would make huge changes for the better for many more people; making small businesses have a greater chance of success for a start.)

                    • What is the desired outcome here and how would this outcome be achieved by the policy you state?

                    • I have stated rather a lot of the desired outcomes in my previous comments. Ultimately I would like to see better distribution of jobs, however I also think that employers need to shift their attitudes toward the value they place on their workers’ input and time. I think that a lower working week could lead to these ends.

                      I note that many people I know who work, work well over 40 hours and many others have no jobs at all. From observation employers appear to be increasingly ‘squeezing’ out more hours from their employees without any extra remuneration for their efforts and ‘loyalty’, where it might be more appropriate to get another worker. There is no reason at present to persue this course of action and appears to have developed a culture of devaluing employees time and efforts.

                      I note that simply reinstating overtime across the board would address many of these issues and the lowering of the week would serve to be added encouragement for employees to realise another worker may be required rather than than pushing their workers for 10 hours here and 10 hours there.

                    • None of the above I disagree with and it would help some people I am sure however I don’t think holds true across the entire workforce which brings me back to my role, and myself, not being the problem as I already stated. I don’t work overtime for money, nor does my workplace require it (outside a few instances where I might be required to be on site/at an event outside the 9 to 5).

                      I do it because I enjoy it. If I didn’t work those overtime hours it wouldn’t free up a place for someone else as I create my own projects and manage my own workflow. So even the working week being dropped wouldn’t effect the amount of work I did, as it is by choice. Any penalisation is to penalise something I do for enjoyment.

                      I hope this makes sense.

                      As to loyalty I lean more the loyalty of having the companies best interest at heart as opposed to a slavish adherence.

        • RedLogix 3.2.4.2

          Well maybe the penalty rate could apply to your employer not you?

          I enjoy my work too, I’m good at it and the results are good for my community. But at the same time I’m very aware that my employer quite happily exploits this because there is no cost to them for doing so.

          My work is not dissimilar to lprent, both of us technology people with far more on our ‘to-do’ lists than we can ever get done, and as a result like Lyn I routinely work 50-60 hour weeks. This isn’t like working on a production line, where if you take time off someone else does the work … what I do is specialised and specific and much of it only I can do effectively. Therefore when I take time off the tasks simply don’t get done and I finish up working under even more pressure to get them done.

          A lot of skilled jobs are like this, but as an individual there is not a lot I can do about it. Short of walking away from them, to another employer who will behave exactly the same, I’m powerless to change this.

          • Colonial Viper 3.2.4.2.1

            Employers need to bring people on and train them up. Like they used to do. It might take 2-3 years before your ‘junior’ stops being a proper liability, and starts actually saving real time, effort and money, but that’s the way its always been.

            Of course in the old days there was also actually spare (now read as “inefficient”) resource in organisations to do this kind of training and mentoring.

            What is happening now is that the private sector is simply running down existing human capital and not replacing it. Then going on of course and bitching that although there are plenty of unemployed around, they don’t have the right skills.

            • Draco T Bastard 3.2.4.2.1.1

              What is happening now is that the private sector is simply running down existing human capital and not replacing it. Then going on of course and bitching that although there are plenty of unemployed around, they don’t have the right skills.

              Yep and all in the name of efficiency while ignoring the fact that they themselves are the source of the inefficiency.

            • RedLogix 3.2.4.2.1.2

              Absolutely CV. I know we’re usually pretty much on similar wavelengths, but the above is precisely what I’m seeing.

              Most of the skilled technical people in this country are over the age of 55. Most of us are going to retire within 10-15 years and that’s going the leave a huge deficit in our economic productivity.

              It takes decades to get good at some jobs. I know that I’m far more productive now in my 50’s that I was in my 20’s. Many times more. It’s not just about technical skills, but about judgement and intuition. These days I pretty much know what solutions are going to be effective and stable and crisis don’t stress me the way they would have decades ago.

              Most of my peers got their starts in the big state entities like the Post Office, Armed Services, MoW and so on. (I didn’t but I often wish I had) Career starts and training was one of the hugely important functions that these organisations provided … something that the private sector is very loath to do if at all.

          • Draco T Bastard 3.2.4.2.2

            Therefore when I take time off the tasks simply don’t get done and I finish up working under even more pressure to get them done.

            Which shows incredible stupidity on the managers part. There should at least be some one who can do most of your job when you’re away. It may cost more but having the flexibility that it would allow would actually improve the business. Of course, all the management see is the cost which is why such a critical position isn’t duplicated.

            • RedLogix 3.2.4.2.2.1

              Which shows incredible stupidity on the managers part.

              Manager is in the same boat. This is endemic throughout the system at all levels. The point of leverage to change lies with government changing the playing field.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Manager is in the same boat. This is endemic throughout the system at all levels.

                Middle managers maybe but upper management will be the ones choosing not to have enough people employed.

  4. Flying Kiwi 4

    And I was depressed to read the following from Shearer on Thursday:

    “Jobs matter. And it’s not only about whether you’re earning enough to pay the bills. It’s because they say so much about you. Often, when you meet a person one of the first things you’ll find out about them is what they do for a crust. It’s more than just a weekly wage. It’s about recognising that what you choose to do with your life matters. It matters to you, your family and your community. It’s through your job that you’re able to realise your ambitions and give your kids a decent start in life. It’s a sense of identity and a source of dignity. …”

    No. Shearer here is talking about a vocation, not a job. Teaching and nursing are, or should be, vocations. Police should be a vocation. A vocation is something you want to do to benefit humanity.

    Most of us don’t have vocations. We have jobs. We have jobs to earn money so’s we can try to enjoy life and give our kids a decent start in life. But we are not defined by our jobs – that’s almost feudal. What does Shearer suppose working at a till in Countdown or pushing paper or buttons in a office or changing the oil in cars in a garage or driving a bus or a truck says about what we choose to do with our lives. What is the source of dignity for women who give up jobs to bring their children up despite the financial sacrifice, and even someone like me who earned enough in 20-years as a professional to retire at 45 and live frugally off my investments in order to indulge my meagre talents as an writer?

    Indeed Shearer’s remarks implicitly deny identity and dignity to those who for no fault of their own cannot get work, or are forced to accept what they can get.

    I choose to judge a person by wht they do out of work, when they have their own lives. Are they musicians, pursue a sport or a hobby, do voluntary work for the community, spend time with their children, read to broaden their minds, spend their time on-line reading blogs or swinging a vorpal sword +6?

    The attitude Shearer displays here is positively Victorian.

    And to get on topic, most highly-paid as I was do 70+ hours a week because there’s no-one else with the expertise to do it while the lower-paid work all the hours they can to earn as much as they can in order to have the money to realise their ambitions and give their kids a good start in life.

    • just saying 4.1

      A number of us have found that particular paragraph from Shearer disturbing.
      Makes you wonder about how he valued the lives of those to whom he administered charity, as an executive at the UN, compared to his own vocationally and economically enhanced, and entirely noble, existence.

      I guess he found them pitiful, and that the meagre crumbs of their richer fellows’ pity defined their (lack of intrinsic) worth.

      I think your comment is very relevant to a discussion about labour day. As is Shearer’s.

      • Bill 4.1.1

        That a guy who was travelling through a country in the midst of famine only became aware that there was a famine when he threw a mango peel off the side of a truck kind of says it all for me.

        And I think your use of the term ‘noble’ maybe captures an essential component of his apparent disconnect from the wider world; the one inhabited by us common folks with our common concerns and perceptions.

        • RedLogix 4.1.1.1

          No I think that’s unfair Bill, clearly Shearer knew on an intellectual level there was famine … that’s the reason why he was there after all. But I’d suggest that it was one of those defining moments when the witnessing of poverty, famine and degradation has a sudden, personal and intense emotional resonance.

          I had my own one about 12 years ago seeing a homeless boy who could have been my own son, huddled around a war memorial ‘eternal flame’ for warmth at about -10degC. Whenever I think about it, or as I type this now, I’m still struck by the same feelings … anger, helplessness and guilt for not being able to do anything about it. It was only an incident of maybe less than 20 seconds in my life, yet I can replay that movie with perfect, chilling clarity.

          • Bill 4.1.1.1.1

            I don’t think I’m being at all unfair. As I recollect, his story was that he was merely back-packing or travelling through Africa and then there was a truck and a discarded mango skin . Not that he was in any particular country due to the existence of famine.

            • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1.1.1.1

              You have to admit that he then woke up to the problem even though his ideology doesn’t let him see the solution.

              • Bill

                Or if I might take the time to be a little cynical…..he just saw a ‘feel good’ job opportunity…an opportunity to salve his conscience a tad. (Maybe even to follow in his Christian minister’s fathers footsteps to some degree…’save the less fortunate/damned’?) And get well paid into the bargain. (National Party voter’s market rate mentality?) And I know that’s a really fucking ascerbic take on his possible motivation. But I honestly find it believable enough as to perhaps be the case with regards our dear Mr Shearer.

              • Colonial Viper

                You have to admit that he then woke up to the problem even though his ideology doesn’t let him see the solution.

                And having woken up to African poverty, do you think he has had a similar Damascus conversion and woken up to poverty in NZ?

                I mean, in comparison there is no actual poverty in NZ, is there?

                • Draco T Bastard

                  And having woken up to African poverty, do you think he has had a similar Damascus conversion and woken up to poverty in NZ?

                  Nope, his bene bashing showed that he doesn’t think that there’s poverty in NZ.

          • just saying 4.1.1.1.2

            i…that’s the reason why he was there after all….

            Do you have a link for this RL, because I understood he was just doing the proverbial OE. And I know plenty of people who did the same, and spent time amidst the worst depravation and were completely unaffected by the extreme poverty they witnessed. Maybe they just needed something more personal, and if so, what does this say? And I wouldn’t underestimate the ability of people to be oblivious to injustice and the suffering of others, when they are doing very nicely themselves. You know, like attending school with kids from Otara, and going out and voting National…

            I’d also point out that what Shearer was moved to do by this experience, was to get into work with a salary and benefits that the vast majority of us can only dream of, and then, later on as a politician, skite (straight out lie actually) that in doing so he was personally responsible for saving 50 million lives.

            • RedLogix 4.1.1.1.2.1

              Do you have a link for this RL, because I understood he was just doing the proverbial OE.

              umm ..fair enough. I was imagining he was working for the UN at the time. My fault for not paying attention to the detail.

              Still I think the story is a valid expression of how the experienced changed him personally.

              • just saying

                …changed him personally…

                You mean getting himself a fantastically well paid job?

                • RedLogix

                  No .. I explained how I experienced something similar above. Maybe you haven’t.

                  • Anne

                    In my view Redlogix is right. I, too, experienced something similar and I was also on my OE. Mine took place in Capetown, South Africa in 1970. At the time I didn’t really appreciate what I witnessed, but later it was to have an enormous effect on my attitude towards racism in particular and prompted me to get involved in politics when I returned to NZ.

                    I think you’re being a bit hard on Shearer ‘just saying’. The “50 million lives” thing sounded to me like a Pagani-ism and not something Shearer would have said of his own accord. Perhaps he should have ignored it, but I’ve met Shearer two or three times now and I wouldn’t describe him as a liar or a skite – far from it. Keep those labels for the real liars and skites like John Key et al.

                    • just saying

                      Shearer said it on numerous occasions – to promote himself. At what point does he become responsible for his own actions?

                      Also, Shearer didn’t get involved in politics (as you did in the interests of changing things for the betterment of humanity) on his return to NZ. He was shoulder-tapped for yet another prestigious well-paid job. No unpaid leaflet-dropping and general drudgery for this particular ‘working class hero’.

                      That was when he became involved in politics and no-one has shown any example of his acting out of anything other than self-interest.

                      edit: “real liars” are people who lie. Shearer has been caught out a few times now each time trying to further his own ambitions. The comparision with Key is very apt.

                  • just saying

                    Yeah, actually I first experienced it in primary school, just up the street from Shearer when he was at high school. With the kids from Otara that he didn’t notice.
                    You’ve given no evidence that Shearer experienced anything more than a very lucrative opportunity. Maybe he did feel something. So what, what he did was get a very, very well paying job, then came back to NZ and used this particular anecdote along with some proven lies to promote himself as a potential prime minister.

                    And since then I’ve heard him spout nothing but right-wing, victim-blaming vain glorious crap. Which doesn’t really gel with the “life-changing experience” spin.
                    (Although, on second thoughts, it certainly did change his own life significantly for the better).

    • muzza 4.2

      When and where is Shearer make that comment?

      Either way, its the words a someone who is badly disconnected, my god he would be so easy to crush in a conversation, he is a clueless plant!

      Who still is not understanding that the UN is not what it wants us to believe it to be, Shearer proving that more by the day. Unless like Key, the backstory is simply a cover, littered with some truths, hiding the negative character traits..

      I think we have had enough examples to put a solid case togther, that Shearer is not what people were sold him to be. An idiot could have worked out what was going on, and is going on the Labur party!

      Taken-over, long ago!

      • Vicky32 4.2.1

        I think we have had enough examples to put a solid case togther, that Shearer is not what people were sold him to be.

        Sigh, more Shearer bashing! Who did he offend I wonder, other than the Greens?
        Honestly, I came across someone earlier today (on an older thread) praising Key, for being decent and more honest than Shearer – and no, it wasn’t any RWNJ, but actually, as I discovered when I tried to reply, several people who are regulars here.
        Whale and Hooten must be lapping this up. Did it occur to many here that you’re doing just what NACT wants?

    • prism 4.3

      flying kiwi Good points about jobs and vocations.

    • Rogue Trooper 4.4

      swing that vorpal sword

    • Draco T Bastard 4.5

      Most of us don’t have vocations. We have jobs. We have jobs to earn money so’s we can try to enjoy life and give our kids a decent start in life. But we are not defined by our jobs – that’s almost feudal.

      Went for a job interview the other day. I didn’t get it because a) I didn’t “love the company” as much as the person doing the interview did (yes, her words) and b) saw it as just a job. Today companies expect loyalty and commitment to the company just like the feudal lords expected them and the scary thing is that they get it.

      Capitalism really is only one step removed from feudalism and it’s been going back toward that for the last few decades.

      Indeed Shearer’s remarks implicitly deny identity and dignity to those who for no fault of their own cannot get work, or are forced to accept what they can get.

      It’s not so much that they can’t get work but that they can’t get a position that they actually want to do probably because there’s just not that many positions for that particular vocation. And that doesn’t take into account those who don’t know what they want to do because they’ve never found it.

      • “Went for a job interview the other day. I didn’t get it because a) I didn’t “love the company” as much as the person doing the interview did (yes, her words) and b) saw it as just a job. Today companies expect loyalty and commitment to the company just like the feudal lords expected them and the scary thing is that they get it.”

        @Draco

        You might find this relevant

        http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU1210/S00011/employers-and-employees-are-poles-apart.htm

        “Today companies expect loyalty and commitment to the company”

        Well, yeah. You kinda need a commitment. Nothing wrong with that at all…in itself. If I were interviewing people and one person told me they didn’t really give a fuck for the brand and just wanted a job versus someone who said they believed in the brand and wanted to work towards its goals the choice is pretty clear.

        • McFlock 4.5.1.1

          “believed in the brand and wanted to work towards its goals”
           
          Oh, the goals to boost share value and profits for stockholders?
          Excuse me for not giving too much of a fuck about that. That’s why I prefer slightly less lucrative work that has some social value beyond “brand”.

                   
           

          • TheContrarian 4.5.1.1.1

            Brand, goals, company ethos, whatever.

            You wouldn’t walk into Greenpeace and say “Fuck the whales, I just want a job” and still expect to get the job over someone who has a passion for the work Greenpeace does.

            • McFlock 4.5.1.1.1.1

              Indeed.
              But most jobs aren’t with organisations like Greenpeace.
                   
              Let me put it this way: everyone who loved and believed in the National Bank brand are expected to immediately shift their allegiance to ANZ? I’m supposed to love the vision of McDs just to flip burgers? Kmart? The Warehouse? What about the $2 shop? 
                   
              It’s all complete bullshit. 

              • Unfortunately when looking for people to hire most people, myself included, are not inclined to hire those who don’t give a fuck about the company they work for.

                Companies like Burger King not withstanding because no one expects a spotty teen to give a shit and they no this. But if you went for an interview at ANZ and told them you thought ANZ was a shitty bank don’t expect a call back. And quite rightly so.

                • McFlock

                  We seem to be talking about 3 different things here:
                        
                  1: DTB  recalling the interviewer expecting them to “love the company”;
                  2: your counterexamples of an applicant expressing dislike or complete uninterest in the company or industry during the job interview;
                  3: Simply taking pride in your work, being good at your job, and being well qualified. 
                           
                  IMO 1 is stupid and cultish; 2 is stupid and deserves getting passed over, and 3 is the main thing interviewers should be looking for. 

                  • Agreed however taking pride in ones work would also necessitate taking pride in working for said company.

                    Pretty hard to take pride in your work if it benefits something you have complete disinterest in.

                    • Te Reo Putake

                      While I disagree that that pride in work requires pride in employer, your second sentence is a penny drop away from being Marxist. Alienation, TC, it’s part of what defines a worker under capitalism.

                    • McFlock

                      nice one TRP. 🙂

                    • “While I disagree that that pride in work requires pride in employer, your second sentence is a penny drop away from being Marxist”

                      Yeah, well you say that now but pretty soon I’ll be labeled a Tory again. I don’t mean you have to have pride in an employer per se but it is a bit odd to be happy with ones work when indifferent to whom you have provided the work. Not impossible, just seems weird to me

                    • McFlock

                      More likely that your tory blinkers mean that you’ll always skirt political realities, never acknowledge them.
                           
                      A courier might like courier work while not giving a damn if they’re DHL or courierpost. I know people who like reception work, or customer services work, or building work, because it suits their skills and gives them a work environment they enjoy. Other employers and workplaces do indeed have special characters, for me this is largely due to their social value. But the “branding” on the van or the desk is usually immaterial. 

                    • Yeah because I’m obviously a Tory.
                      Or a RWNJ if you prefer. The reality is that I am a social democrat but whatever label you wish to apply is fine.

                      And I was pretty clear about what I meant by brand. Hint: I meant the company ethos not the label.

                    • McFlock

                      “Company ethos” is part of the brand, as any good brand manager knows. Just more bullshit in the prospectus.
                         

                    • Well whatever. One thing I do know is that if I didn’t act as an ‘ambassador’ for my work (which I need to do) and had no caring for its future or long-term goals I wouldn’t be there for very long nor would I enjoy what I did.

                    • McFlock

                      If you like doing that stuff, then good for you. But when I was cleaning shitters I was also expected to “love my company”. Rather irrelevant to that job. But the porcelain was always clean.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      and had no caring for its future or long-term goals I wouldn’t be there for very long nor would I enjoy what I did.

                      I wouldn’t have been there long either, 6 months to a year maybe, but I wouldn’t have fucked up the job. Would I care about the company? Nope but I would care for the customers and I made that clear to them. They wouldn’t have been hurt by hiring me and I would quietly gone on my way in a few months just another part of that free labour market these businesses tell us that they want. Of course, they don’t actually want free labour market, they want labour that is dependent upon them.

                      There’s also the reason why I said “companies expect loyalty and commitment to the company just like the feudal lords expected them”. I see things like that as detrimental to democracy as people, once they give such loyalty, tend not to consider the full ramifications of the companies actions. This article gives a rather cogent reason as to why.

                    • Look at it from the employers perspective. You have two people with similar skills and able to do the job as well as each other.
                      However one of them expresses a real desire to work for the company and the other, meh.

                      Who do you expect to get hired?

                      It is all well and good for you to say “oh it shouldn’t matter” but it does matter and quite frankly there is nothing wrong with an employer leaning towards someone who wants to work for said company over someone who just wants to work.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      You have two people with similar skills and able to do the job as well as each other.

                      But what if the one who only there because it’s a job is the better qualified?

                      It is all well and good for you to say “oh it shouldn’t matter” but it does matter and quite frankly there is nothing wrong with an employer leaning towards someone who wants to work for said company over someone who just wants to work.

                      I didn’t say that it doesn’t matter. In fact, I said quite specifically that it was concerning that employers were asking for such loyalty. Please also note the difference between wanting to work there and loyalty.

                    • RedLogix

                      Demanding loyalty from your employees is all very well. But of course it doesn’t cut the other way does it?

                      Workers are as disposable as toilet paper to most companies.

                  • muzza

                    It is all well and good for you to say “oh it shouldn’t matter” but it does matter and quite frankly there is nothing wrong with an employer leaning towards someone who wants to work for said company over someone who just wants to work.

                    But you’re freelance right, so you basically show no loyalty at all, ironic???

                    • I am not a freelancer.

                      “Please also note the difference between wanting to work there and loyalty.”

                      You are contractually obliged to be loyal in that you won’t divulge information to competitors and you won’t do anything that can bring the company into disrepute.
                      Telling people the must be loyal is one thing but expecting people to have a loyalty is another. Many companies spend a lot of money on training and personal development so the ones that do are more than entitled to expect the employee to display a loyalty and not just say “thanks very much, now I am outta here to take that training and knowledge to a competitor.

                      It isn’t to much to ask.

                      (EDIT: Note that I am spoilt in that I have a job that allows a lot of freedom for me to find my own solutions to issues, to create my own projects and I work in an extremely close knit team with a CE who is very hands on. I also have a training budget so can send my self on courses for my own self development. So I have it good compared to others)

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      You are contractually obliged to be loyal in that you won’t divulge information to competitors and you won’t do anything that can bring the company into disrepute.

                      That’s not loyalty but a contractual obligation.

                      Many companies spend a lot of money on training and personal development so the ones that do are more than entitled to expect the employee to display a loyalty and not just say “thanks very much, now I am outta here to take that training and knowledge to a competitor.

                      No they’re not. The person is free to do as they choose and if that means going to work for someone else for whatever reason then so be it. Perhaps that employer should try being a better employer if they don’t want to lose people to the competition.

                      BTW, most companies try very hard not to spend money training and then complain that the government hasn’t provided skilled people.

              • Foreign Waka

                This will limit your choice of company or organization you choose to go for an interview to dramatically..

  5. millsy 5

    Much of the reason why we are working so long is because there is more work, and not enough people to do it. Any productivity dividend that is provided by things such as technology, etc is eaten up by more work needing to be done.

    It doesnt help that pay is crap, and there is constant pressure on workers to do more and more, with audits, reports and monitoring, enabling people to be constantly questioned on this and that.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      Any productivity dividend that is provided by things such as technology, etc is eaten up by more work needing to be done.

      Not really – its eaten up as extracted profits and extracted dividends by the owners of capital, its eaten up by ticket clipping by the corporates.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.2

      The whole point of productivity increases is that people get freed up to do something else. What you seem to be saying here, though, is that people are freed up from doing one task only to find that they now have another task related to the first which then eats up the productivity increase effectively resulting in a productivity decrease.

      • prism 5.2.1

        DTB
        What you state sounds right. This is what I see. New technology comes along, or new programs have to be installed but parts of the old ones have been dropped or are not compatible. Then time is spent on individual machines trying to regain the valuable part of the program that has become unavailable. New machines must be made compatible with the in house system which takes varied amounts of time.

        This is repeated with other new machines/programs and people with older ones who have problems have to be fitted in somehow o the same amount of work time by the same technician. There is a continual waiting list. There is no catch up. How can this be regarded as efficient.

  6. lefty 6

    An unhealthy obsession with work in its existing form presents perhaps the largest barrier to the left’s ability to envisage a better way of organising society.

    As a unionist I spend my days alongside workers struggling to improve pay and conditions in their workplaces.

    The day to day struggles in the workplace are an essential part of resisting the greed of the ruling class and meeting the immediate needs of workers and their families.

    But these struggles need to be viewed in the context of a wider struggle for a fairer society.

    Somehow we have collectively fallen for a giant con that results in those who can’t, or won’t, work being regarded as morally inferior to those who have jobs, and to individuals self esteem becoming linked to their success at getting and retaining paid work, even if it serves no useful purpose.

    It leads to the development of a weird type of morality and strange ideas of ‘fairness’ (epitomised in the views put forward by David Shearer), and to the development of perverse policies like raising the retirement age when there is not enough paid work for young people, having a range of ‘beneficiary’ categories, carefully organised in order of respectability from pensioner to unemployed, and seeking endless growth rather than sharing work and wealth.

    It also leads to economic decisions that push our environment beyond its capacity, simply to keep people in ’employment’.

    The labour movement needs to move from glorifying work to developing strategies to free the working class from the need to carry out more than the socially necessary or useful tasks required to supply us all with a decent standard of living.

    • Bill 6.1

      yup. Real need to dump the glorification of having a job and for the union movement to broaden its horizons to encapsulate a bigger (dare I say ‘post-capitalist’?) picture.

      Just don’t see any signs of it happening though. Unions are utterly locked into an adversarial mindset that itself is completely contained within capitalist or market parameters.

      I’ve yet to hear any union take even the very idea of worker control seriously, let alone lay out any strategy for achieving it. Which is a shame. Because it is very achievable in the here and now using existing legislative frameworks.

      • populuxe1 6.1.1

        I think it’s less the glorification of having a job then the failure to recognise and renumerate a whole bunch of roles ranging from artists to stay-at-home parents, to live in caregivers, and a whole bunch of stuff relying on volunteers.

        • Bill 6.1.1.1

          Hmm… but if general human interactions are monetised or renumerated, then what you get is a right wingers heaven… ie, hell.

          Far better for society (ie, you and I) to identify and renumerate tasks that are of social benefit that we wouldn’t naturally or otherwise engage in while valuing the other activities and not financially punishing people for focussing solely on those other activities.

          And one more or less mainstream way for negotiating that fairly complex situation is the idea of the social wage.

          Another would be to have all individuals located at one step removed from any economic interactions.

          • RedLogix 6.1.1.1.1

            The social wage or UBI is pretty much the best step I can think of that might stand a chance of being implemented.

            But I’m open to other ideas.

            I can’t make up my mind if Robert Atack is right and that a 90% population crash with a complete re-boot of human civilisation from the rubble is inevitable, or whether it is possible that we will messily blunder through more by good luck than planning as usual.

            • Colonial Viper 6.1.1.1.1.1

              I can’t make up my mind if Robert Atack is right and that a 90% population crash with a complete re-boot of human civilisation from the rubble is inevitable, or whether it is possible that we will messily blunder through more by good luck than planning as usual.

              The Archdruid supports the idea of a ‘Long Descent’. De-industrialisation is already in progress after which there will be a century or two’s worth of ‘salvage economy’.

              However I reckon Atack is partly right – there will be some localities where there will be 90% population declines, but it won’t be general.

              Long term (500 year) target population of the World – roughly 2.0B.

    • Rogue Trooper 6.2

      Amen

    • Foreign Waka 6.3

      Well, essentially NZ has not got the capacity to create more jobs when manufacturing is being outsourced to Asia minor and the income generated across the board is actually not very high. Not even for the “high earners”. Farming for export will cover the imports NZ needs to maintain its family ties to the first world, even if it is barely. Add to this the Maori settlements and all it entails – uncertainty of any future investment – and all you are left with is farming, forestry, mining and oil drilling. So in other words raw material from the soil unprocessed and pure, with the return coming back to a few individuals.With sophisticated machinery in use not many people will be employed. Tax take is low as NZ is a heaven for the evaders. Someone will have to cut benefits further still. Unions as far as I have seen in these parts of the world have more often then not collaborated with the employer (I just mention Australian wharf strikes) only to find that they have been sidelined by the right wing at the first opportunity. All in all, it should not come as a surprise that the young educated leaving the country. What hope is there for them if the very people who should create a future have sold the same.

  7. captain hook 8

    the problem is just like bank crateded credit.
    creating something from nothing only in this case it is the opposite effect.
    working people have to work harder and harder to support more and more parasites getting money for doing nothing.

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