Overtime work

Overtime work.Work in excess of the standard day or week and, usually, paid at a higher rate. In the 19th century long working hours were normal: the average industrial worker in the 1870s and 1880s worked 12 to 14 hours a day, not including lunch breaks, travel time, or overtime. In the Russian Empire the average overtime during that period was 20 to 30 minutes per day. The emerging trade-union and workers' movement demanded, among other things, restrictions on compulsory overtime and additional payment for overtime. In 1897 a law on overtime restricted compulsory overtime to 120 hours per year and to cases where the existing technology made overtime necessary. Voluntary overtime was not regulated by law. The laws, however, were violated with impunity. In Kharkiv gubernia in 1899 and 1917, 19 percent of the industrial workers surveyed had worked 166 hours of compulsory overtime per year. The rate of pay was the same as for regular work.

After the Revolution of 1917 the 1922 Labor Code prohibited overtime as a general rule. Exceptions were for defense projects, public emergencies, essential social services (water supply, transportation, telephone services), and pressing repair and maintenance work. Originally overtime had to be sanctioned by the Rates and Conflicts Commission; later, only by the factory trade union. The code prohibited anyone from working more than 120 overtime hours per year and for more than 4 overtime hours on two consecutive days, except in seasonal work. In practice, however, the law was widely ignored, especially after the five-year plans were introduced. The law made no provision for overtime as a means of meeting production plans on time, yet such became the most common reason for overtime, especially at the end of the month. With legislation in 1940, workers in most branches of industry received a bonus of 50 percent of the regular rate for the first two hours of overtime and a bonus of 100 percent for all subsequent hours. Piece-rate workers received in addition to their regular wage a bonus of 50 percent of the tariff-wage for time-rate workers in the same tariff class for the first two hours and a bonus of 100 percent for all subsequent hours. Compulsory overtime for young workers under 16, nursing mothers, and pregnant women was prohibited. Overtime was limited to 120 hours per annum and 4 hours in any 48-hour period. In practice the rules were widely ignored—a state of affairs that gave rise to workers' protests and strikes in the 1960s and 1970s, especially in the Donbas region, where miners protested against compulsory work on Sundays. Since the rise of independent trade unions in 1988–9, violations of the labor code become less frequent.

Bjork, L. Wages, Prices, and Social Legislation in the Soviet Union (London 1953)
Conquest, R. (ed). Industrial Workers in the USSR (London 1967)
Kir’ianov, Iu. Zhiznennyi uroven’ rabochikh Rossii: Konets XIX–nachalo XX v. (Moscow 1979)
Trud i zarabotnaia plata v SSSR (Moscow 1989)

Bohdan Krawchenko

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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