Factory Stories: There is no such thing as fully used work time

by Zaozao (Factory Stories, Factory Management, November 2014)


During a meeting an instructor named Hu said: we say your working time is ten hours, but who’s really giving the boss the full ten hours? To tell the truth I really did not want to listen to this bullshit, so I immediately responded: we have to arrive ten to twenty minutes early to clock in for work, then they make us clock out five minutes late, add this up and the company has used an extra half an hour of our time. Hu, who was not happy with my rebuttal but could think of no good way to respond, simply glared at me. But isn’t this true? Let’s first disregard whether what Hu was saying makes any sense. Even if we adopt his logic, after we deduct work time, we should have fourteen hours of free time we can arrange however we want. But who has ever had fourteen hours of spare time? In order to go to work, one has to spend at least half an hour to an hour or more preparing, walking and catching rides to work. After work, one spends another thirty minutes to an hour getting back home. Who does all this time belong to? Has the company ever compensated us for any of this time? No! This time is not time we can freely arrange. We spend it in the service of going to and coming back from work. Doesn’t this mean we’re doing free work for the company?

On the other hand, within our so-called working time, what does it mean to work to the full? Does it mean that you never stop moving your hands? That you never lift your head? That you never go to the toilet? Is that what it means to give your full? The company of course wants to achieve such results, but unfortunately, machines can’t replace human hands. People are not machines. If they work continuously without stopping, and even don’t go to the toilet, they will very soon become useless! And if they all become useless, who will earn money for the boss! Therefore, we won’t work without ever stopping our hands, without lifting our heads, and without going to the toilet, [and] we still have time to stop our hands, lift our heads, and go to the bathroom! So what then does it mean to give our full time? I believe, as long as we do things according to requirements, standing – where we do not want to stand, but have to stand – at our work stations, whether we are working or waiting for materials, we have given our time to the company, for the company to order about and arrange, and in this time we are not free to leave or do what we want, this qualifies as giving our full time. So what if we are waiting for materials? Staying on the shop floor idling away our time is also a task given to us by the company, it was the company’s arrangement and not our own decision. We give so much to the company, yet they still say it’s not enough. That’s just too much, and also not the reality.


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