Working hours and overtime: 96-hour workweeks

published 14-11-2012 13:25, last modified 29-04-2013 09:38
We work overtime every day. During peak season, we work until 2 or 3 am. Although we’re exhausted, we have no choice. We cannot refuse overtime: our basic wages are just too low. • Phan, 22 describing his employment situation in a Thai factory

Long and unrealistic hours are no exception in the international garment industry. Factory managers often force overtime, particularly as deadlines approach. In many cases, overtime is demanded at the last minute and workers have no choice; anyone who protests may end up being dismissed. Long working hours with insufficient breaks often lead to health problems. Women, in particular, struggle with the demands of a stressful factory environment combined with the pressures of home life; many women garment workers are also often responsible for the household. 

Factory managers typically pressure employees to work 10 to 12-hour days, and sometimes 16 to 18-hour workdays with hours increasing as order deadlines approach. Despite government regulations, a seven-day workweek is very common during peak periods.

Many workers are dependent on overtime pay to supplement their low wages. But many factories simply do not pay overtime wages. They do this by establishing totally unrealistic daily targets, which must be met or they simply manipulate the time sheets. 

The ILO conventions that address working hours have established a maximum of 48 hours per week plus 12 hours of overtime and this can only be applied on a sometime basis. That is why the CCC continues to emphasise that working hours are an essential part of the living wage standard. 

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