Labor in the Soviet Union

By Solomon M. Schwarz | Go to book overview

Chapter Three
TRANSFORMATION OF THE LABOR RELATIONSHIP

"Floating" Labor. -- "Voluntary" Indenture. -- Promoting Shop Loyalty. -- Curbs on Quitting. -- On the Road to the Work Book. -- Tightening Work Discipline. -- Labor Law Revision of December 1938. -- The "Reform" of June 1940: The End of Free Labor Relations. -- Criminal Courts Under Pressure. -- Beginning of Planned Manpower Allocation. -- The War and Postwar Years.


"Floating" Labor

Around 1930 the labor market underwent a fundamental change. Hundreds of thousands of new workers were employed in production; real wages declined; the housing shortage seemingly could get no worse. The result was extraordinary unrest in the factories. Workers came and went in quest of better living and working conditions. Labor turnover became the sore spot of the economy, and the fight against "floating" came to dominate labor policy and labor relations.

The rate of labor turnover had been high since the mid- Twenties. From 1929 on it climbed steadily. Even annual average figures, disguising seasonal peaks, show the accumulation of danger points. The following figures are for industry as a whole-- again concealing the particularly precarious conditions in some vital industries:1

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1
Socialist Construction of the USSR. Statistical Year-Book, Moscow, 1936, p. 531.

-86-

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