Cutting through the bullshit.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Land of the free

A new report by Rebecca Ray and John Schmitt of the Center for Economic and Policy Research finds that the US is the only OECD country that does not provide all workers with any statutory paid annual leave or public holidays with pay. No-vacation nation reports that even Japanese workers get 10 days’ leave per year. Danish, Finish, and French workers get 30 working days’ paid leave per year, and the Danes and Finns also have nine paid public holidays.

To add insult to injury, those who are least likely to be able to afford to take time off without pay are also least likely to have paid leave. Overall, 77% of all workers get an average of 12 days’ paid leave and 76% get six public holidays off with pay. But of those workers earning less than $15 per hour, only 69% get annual leave, and they get an average of ten days per year. Sixty-seven percent get seven paid public holidays off. Only 36% of part time workers get annual leave to the tune of an average of nine days per year, and 37% get an average of six paid holidays.

But that’s not all. Bob Herbert writes in yesterday’s NY Times that

Nearly half of all full-time private sector workers in the U.S. get no paid sick days. None. If one of those workers woke up with excruciating pains in his or her chest and had to be rushed to a hospital — well, no pay for that day. For many of these workers, the cost of an illness could be the loss of their job.

The situation is ridiculous for those in the lowest quarter of U.S. wage earners. Nearly 80 percent of those workers — the very ones who can least afford to lose a day’s pay — get no paid sick days at all.

The US government and US employers may not have any sympathy for their employees when they’re sick. Since they have to work sick anyway, obviously, it doesn’t matter to them that sick workers are likely to infect their well workmates. But surely, they want to keep the customers healthy? Surely they have some commitment to public health measures.

Food service workers are among those least likely to get paid sick days. Eighty-six percent get no sick days at all. They show up in the restaurants coughing and sneezing and feverish, and they start preparing and serving meals. You won’t see many of them wearing masks.

Not to worry, though. Help is on the way.

There’s an effort under way to change this picture…legislation, sponsored by Senator Edward Kennedy and Representative Rosa DeLauro, would require employers with 15 or more workers to provide the sick days.

Never keen to shock observers of industrial relations in the US, the employers ‘are ice-cold to the idea’. A spokeswoman for Cracker Barrel Old Country Store told Bob Herbert,

“If employees need to miss a shift due to illness, there are generally many opportunities to make up that lost shift later in the week, or the next week.”

Or else.

[Thanks to the Center for American Progress Action Fund for the tipoff.]

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