Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Lindy McDowell: How US workers are feeling labour pains

America is currently celebrating Labor Day - a holiday dedicated to the working man and woman. And one which is this year marked by the fact that fewer people are actually in Labor.

The grim economic climate has meant that most workers will enjoy the holiday at home — travel chiefs expect a fall of around 15% in the usual inter-state travel.

The staycation — a typically American term — is becoming popular on our side of the Atlantic too.

But what about the ‘gloves-off economy’?

This is the phrase coined to describe increasingly harsh working conditions which range from employees being denied loo breaks to being paid less than the minimum wage and forced to work long hours overtime without any recompense. One trick is to classify unqualified workers as ‘managers’. This means they are then denied overtime.

Waiters are being asked to forfeit their tips and many other workers are being robbed of their rights.

A recent large scale study of the low paid found that a shocking 26% were being paid less than the minimum wage. Over a quarter worked more than 40 hours a week and most of those didn’t get paid for overtime.

Could the gloves-off economists get their hands on us on this side of the Atlantic?

Only the naïve would assume that it isn’t already happening.

But for the working man and woman in the US in particular, this Labor Day there’s not a whole lot to celebrate.

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