Soviet Labor Laws

pi167

A problem that the Soviet Union had continued to encounter was a lack of work ethic among the working class.  The government previously had just expected the workers to work as hard as possible without any kind of incentive for their extra labor for the good of the state.  However, they soon found that workers being like any average human being only wanted to put in the minimum amount of effort needed in order to get by and receive a paycheck at the end of the day.  To counter this the government instituted multiple decrees to punish workers for being late or absent to work such as eviction from their homes, confiscation of ration cards, and reduction in pay.  In 1938 labor books were introduced and were used as a way of keeping tabs on the performance of workers. “Labor booklets to contain the following data concerning the owner of the Labor booklet: surname, name and patronymic, age, education, profession, and information concerning his work and movements from one concern (institution) to another, the causes of such transfers, and also of encouragements and rewards received …” The managers would hold onto these booklets and record any data concerning the worker and their performance that way future employers could see how good or bad a worker was at their previous jobs.

 

As industrialization continued to grow the rules became more and more strict.  Workers could find themselves being dismissed from work for being twenty minutes late to work or having their pay reduced. “…work should be carried out in full conformity with the law, namely, a full six-, seven-, or eight-hour day. Tardiness, early departure for and late return from lunch, leaving work before the scheduled time, and also loafing on the job -all these constitute a rude violation of labor discipline, and a violation of the law, which undermines the economic and defensive might of the country, and the well-being of the people.” The Soviet government was becoming stricter because they knew that if they allowed the workers to slack then Soviet industrial power would never improve or reach the level of proficiency they needed.  Labor discipline would become so strict that even quitting would become a crime punishable by imprisonment, “ A workman or clerk who voluntarily leaves a state, co-operative or public enterprise or office, shall be tried by a court, and in accordance with the sentence of the People’s Court shall be imprisoned for terms from two to four months.”  Work hours were also increased and pregnancy leaves reduced as a way to increase production rates.

 

However, even with all of these new decrees being put into place Soviet industrialization still continued to suffer from “a shortage of labor, unreliable and overcrowded transportation, significant downtime due to breakdowns of machinery and shortage of spare parts…” This makes me question if all of these labor laws were even necessary in the first place considering the plethora of problems Soviet industry suffered aside from laziness amongst the workers.

 

Works Cited:

http://www.soviethistory.org/images/Large/1939/pi167.jpg

http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1939discipline&Year=1939&navi=byYear

http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1939booklets1&SubjectID=1939discipline&Year=1939

http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1939consolidation1&SubjectID=1939discipline&Year=1939

http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1939hours1&SubjectID=1939discipline&Year=1939

4 thoughts on “Soviet Labor Laws

  1. Very Interesting how the government just assumed that all of the working class would have a good work ethic. Even in today’s world we have a problem with work ethic. You make a good point at the end of the blog where you mentioned about how there were many other problems that Soviet industry had other than the lack of work ethic.

  2. This is a great post that makes you question the productivity of the Soviet Union. Like you said, “[E]ven with all of these new decrees being put into place Soviet industrialization still continued to suffer from ‘a shortage of labor, unreliable and overcrowded transportation, significant downtime due to breakdowns of machinery and shortage of spare parts…'” The decrees were meant to increase production in an imperfect system. Without incentives there is no productivity, but constant monitoring and severe punishment do not make for production successes either. Really great post!

  3. This seems to be a polar opposite from the Stakhanovite movement which took a motivating approach through positive incentives. Are these labor laws the by-product of where Stalin’s incentives had failed and alienated the average workers to the point where they became uninterested in making an effort?

Comments are closed.