Referendum On The Law On Menial Work: A Case Of Assisted Suicide

As of yesterday the Student organisation of Slovenia is collecting 40 000 signatures needed to hold a referendum on the recently passed Law on Menial Work. Yes, another referendum is looming, the second in as many months and god-knows-which in the entire history of this country. This is the same law that sent students (and pupils) to streets on 19 May last year and produced the final proof that on the whole they are a bunch of irresponsible brats who generally can’t tell their ass-hole from from their ear-hole. Case in point being the said referendum which is a) un-fucking-believable and b) stupid.

Student protests gone sour in May 2010 (source: the Firm™)

Starting with a) I’m amazed at how leaders of the student organisation have the balls to do anything but sit quietly in the corner and do as they’re told. I mean, whatever clout they had with the “grown-up” politics and the general public, they’ve lost it last May as far as I’m concerned. There you have an organisation and its various branches and dependencies with combined yearly budgets of about 16 million euro (no, it’s not a mistake), there’s no real oversight and almost zero consequences in case of any wrongdoing. But then a demo goes bad and rather than trying to contain the situation they split the scene and blame everyone else. So much for responsibility and cojones. And yet, once the dust is settled and miraculously no one is even forced to resign (let alone charged with endangering public safety or something like that) those very same people go for a referendum? What is this? Some kind of a Vaudeville act?

But it does not stop there. Not only is this latest referendum bid (while perfectly legal) very dicey from an ethical point of view. It is also b) one of the more shining examples of shooting oneself in the knee we’ve witnessed in the past year or so. And with that in mind it is little wonder that the student organisation enlisted help of labour unions. Hey, why fuck yourself when you can get ass-rammed by others and be treated to a dirty sanchez.

Namely: The law on menial work (malo delo, link in Slovene only) will largely overhaul student work in Slovenia which has in recent years become more or less the only form of employing young people, especially in the private sector. The problem, which soon became common to tens of thousands of young people was, that despite having worked more or less full time for years on end, this did not officially count as experience, nor did it add towards their retirement age. Since the state paid for student’s social security, the pension fund was none better off and therefore student officially had zero years of working experience. And since most companies required at lest a couple of years’ experience even for entry-level jobs, you can see where this leads to: one big vicious circle, where young people can’t get a job, as a result can’t get regular income, as a result of that they can’t get a loan with the bank and are thus unable to gain any firm footing of their own, creating the unhealthy environment of ever longer stays at mama-hotels.

That labour unions are assisting the student organisation in their self-destructive enterprise is a deviously Machiavellian act which is aimed at maintaining the status quo, i.e.: keeping the students at bay, obstructing their entry into the real labour market as much as possible. In other words – while the student organisation is committing suicide on the students’ behalf, the labour unions are happily assisting. Though it may seem otherwise, students have no representative in this is debate. The only one who possibly cares for their interest is the government with this law, but one shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that this is some kind of random act of human kindness. The law is a necessary element of shaking up the labour market and benefits it brings to the students are only a side-product of a larger enterprise.

What we have here is a situation where labour unions have long stopped representing “class interest” and are now only representatives of an ever-thinning group of people who want to retire as soon as possible, not caring about successive generations. Student organisations are also keen on keeping the status quo, primarily to maintain a cosy source of financing via “student agencies”, employment agencies dedicated exclusively to students, where they took a cut from every student’s income for “providing him/her with work”. If anyone is creating added value in this country, it is the high-skilled low-wage workforce (mostly students) but they are cannot expect any mid- or long-term rewards, thus only exasperating the problem of ever worse social security. But no one is speaking on their behalf, although everyone pretends to.

This is not an ideal law. Should it be enacted, the students will face increased job competition, because the unemployed and pensioners will compete for jobs previously held exclusively by students. However, the upside is that now the time spent working will count towards everyone’s pensions and work experience, students included. Furthermore, there will be no need to artificially extend student status (as was the accepted practice for the last twenty years) in order to be able to get work through “student agencies”, thus possibly radically reducing the amount of time people spend at the university. Right now it takes people seven-to-eight years on average to graduate in what is usually a four-to-five-year course.

So in general, students will be better of in mid- and long-term while they will quite probably be able to compensate short-term drawbacks by being better educated and more flexible than the competition of unemployed 45-year-olds or retired 65-year-olds, not to mention the fact that students probably wouldn’t touch the old farts’ jobs with a ten-foot pole in the first place.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

13 thoughts on “Referendum On The Law On Menial Work: A Case Of Assisted Suicide”

  1. The only real problem that I have with this law is that the students that are writing diplomas on their off year should have more available working hours – at least half of the working week or maybe even better 6hours/day (since I really can’t do a lot of work in 4 hours/day. Of course I am a firm believer that no one should be able to prolong their studies for more than one year (in that year they write their diploma and/or take care of any exams that they have not passed yet. And no, I see absoulutley no valid reason why the faculties give to students another “free” year. btw: the bologna reform makes it possible that there is no diploma at the end of the studies so there really shouldn’t be a reason to even give on “free” year.)

  2. @wick3tgirl Why should diploma-writing students be allowed to wotk longer hours? Their work is to finish their papers, not to earn money. The sooner they are done with the paper, the sooner they will be earning real money. Prolonging their working hours could hardly be considered doing them a favour.

  3. If I focus only on the contents of my work: because during the year off, the 14 hours a week is hardly enough to do real work at my “workplace”. Maybe some copying and such but by no means something substantial like I do now. That means that I am almost forgotten where I work. Since I’ve been working here through the whole of my 4 years of studies (by no means full time 2-3 days a week), I’ve gained some great connections in relation of my possible further employment. And that’s what menial or student work should really be about, isn’t it? Gaining connections and experiences in the working enviroment, so that you make yourself noticable and person that your work colleagues and bosses are glad to put in a good word for you elsewere. I really don’t think that 14 hours a week give you those opportunities or better yet such outcomes for the future, in my opinion.

  4. If you believe that your “employer” will forget four years’ worth of your apparently good work (I say apparently since if it were otherwise, you’d probably have been asked to leave at some point) because you focus on writing a meaningful paper to complete your studies, I think you underestimate both your employer and your own qualities.

  5. pensions? ha, i have doubts about that.

    that having been said, the labour market has GOT to open up here. if that will encourage students to hurry it up out of university, then hallelujah!

    @wick3tgirl – from what i have observed (in only three years!), quite a good number of student workers actually do get preferential treatment with those companies’ human resources departments and employers once they graduate and are looking for full-time employment. if they are doing a good job for the company, 14 hours is more than enough to make their presence known. it’s happening every day

  6. full disclosure: i took precious eight years to graduate. (i wasn’t taking anyone’s job, but never mind that.)

    i actually support the malo delo, however, i don’t agree with the limited hours, especially since there is a limit on the hourly wage as well. some people do, in fact, have to support themselves during studies, and this law doesn’t allow for that. and even if you have parents to support you: if you study something “exotic” (like a foreign language!), your yearly earnings won’t even cover a three-month stay in the country where the language is spoken, and we all know what grants are like. personally, i’d rather study a year or two longer than graduate thousands of euros in debt, but that’s just me.

  7. @Camille: Right on!

    @bibi: Full disclosure on my part would reveal a similar situation to yours 😛 but I worked under different contracts. The limited hours only relate to “malo delo” – there is no rule against working based on other types of contracts. Working longer hours makes the delo less malo, methinks.

  8. @dr. filomena: 😉 i think most of us.
    so under what law are non-menial jobs covered? (I taught english, which paid more than 4 euros pre tax per hour.) because non-menial jobs are the ones university graduates are being pushed out of because student work is so cheap. or not? (i’m really showing my age here, no? hmmm.)

  9. @pengovsky: Interesting article…just saw this line “can’t tell their ass-hole from from their ear-hole.” and had to chuckle since I’ve heard my father say this several times although I think the way he says it sounds a little better. It goes “can’t tell the difference between their asshole and a hole in the ground”. 😛

  10. @Michael N: Well, delivery is part of the phrase 🙂 I heard it in the film Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels 😀

    @everyone: Very interesting debate. Thx!

  11. I didn’t really have an opinion as to whether the referendum might get enough signatures to get rolling or not until today, when I overheard a relatively depressed signature collector explaining how things aren’t looking good, what with only 2000 signatures collected on the first day – and seeing they need 40.000 and have a month to do it, 2000 on the first day doesn’t seem like they have enough momentum to quite pull it through. Which is good, IMO – student work as we have it today is stifling first employment and needs to go.

    All in all, from what I’ve followed things, many students (let alone graduates and workers) share your view, Pengovsky – namely that the state of the things as it is now is harmful to most students after they graduate and that a continuation of the status quo is good only for a precious few in the Student organization, and have seen things like that even since before the infamous let’s-throw-bricks-at-Parliament strike in May. Remember the fine young IRL trolls with the signs that said: “We’re only here for the booze” and “We’re here ’cause we get classes off for this”? IMO the referendum is not going to happen, and if it does, it will probably fail.

    And yeah, the head of the Student organization exhibited the valor of Brave Sir Robin at that strike alright. Sheesh.

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