The average British worker today makes around 22 days of overtime a year. Meanwhile, inflation is hitting a 40-year high of 10.1%and the real wage is 2.8% drop – the fastest decline since records began in 2001.

In response, the trend of “silent weaning” is emerging. This attitude encourages employees to perform their duties without subscribing to a “work is life” culture to guide their careers and stand out to their managers.

The idea of ​​trying just enough not to get fired, but not overdoing it, has a long history in the labor movement. A concept called “work to rule” has been used by workers around the world for centuries and is a popular method of industrial action. United Kingdom.

Historically, working to govern has been an effective – and legal – tool for unions to disrupt company operations during trade disputes by slowing down operations. When the French railways nationalized in 1938, strikes are prohibited. However, railway workers knew that French law required engineers to ensure the safety of any bridge over which the train passed.

If any doubt remained after personal examination, the engineer should consult with other members of the train crew. Working to rule isn’t just about minimizing the workload, it can also be used to frustrate operations – in this case, workers asked for every bridge to be inspected, consulting with every crew, resulting in none of the trains does not run on time.

In 1968, more than 2,000 Air Canada Passenger Agents and Communications Staff implemented to resolve a labor dispute. Representatives at the time said their members generally took every “shortcut” possible to keep passengers moving at top speed. However, they abandoned these shortcuts, working strictly under airline rules and regulations, until a settlement was found.

In May 2021, the UK union of university colleges took “action outside of a strike,” which often describes a work-to-rule approach. Staff continued to perform their work, but interrupted normal work operations through eight forms of action:

  1. boycott of rating and review
  2. do not cover absent or unavailable colleagues
  3. do not use the university’s online systems on a Friday
  4. not to reschedule conferences, classes, appointments, meetings or other tasks canceled due to industrial action
  5. do not participate in meetings longer than 50 minutes
  6. do not send emails before 9:00 a.m. and after 5:00 p.m.
  7. not to come up with ideas or for additional tasks
  8. not undertake work beyond that contracted.

This demonstrated to the employer that the university could not operate without staff regularly going above and beyond what their jobs actually required.

In August 2022, the members of the National Syndicate of Journalists, include those of the DailyMirror, Daily Express and Manchester Evening News voted 88% for of action unless there is a strike. Amid ongoing all-out strikes across multiple industries, there is clearly still an appetite for workplace disruption.

Is silent abandonment a form of industrial action?

Industrial action in the UK exchange. A younger, more diverse labor market wants change in the workplace at the expense of inequality and pay gaps, but their approach is less focused on working-class solidarity than previous generations.

This is evident in the decline in union membership, especially among younger people. For workers aged 20 to 29, union membership is at 14.1%. This falls by almost half to 7.5% in the private sector, where most young people work.

Many states (especially EU members or countries trading with the EU) restricted the freedom of employers and workers to enter into contractual agreements and to modify them in response to changing economic circumstances. Prior to state intervention, industrial relations were essentially voluntary arrangements between employers, employees and trade unions. With declining union membership and fewer opportunities for industrial action, “silent quitting” and working to govern are becoming more common.

Labor withdrawal methods may be similar, but the fundamental premise behind them has changed. Working to govern has always been a form of collective action over a dispute, usually involving pay and conditions.

The quiet surrender approach has a much more personal and psychological attitude, linked to the workers’ individual desire to good mental health. Psychologists say this approach to work can relieve burnout, set healthy boundaries, create a sense of control, and help people prioritize what really matters.

Employers will need to address this issue to ensure productivity is not affected in the short or long term – but it will be difficult to tackle. Labor to rule (and other industrial action) is a quantity known to employers. Workers are clear about the terms of the dispute, the nature of the collective action and its duration.

On the other hand, as the name suggests, silent resignation is a silent protest that employers will have to resolve by responding to individual employee demands or re-joining unions to create workplaces where people want to be. engage.

Jonathan Lord is a lecturer in human resource management and employment law at the University of Salford.

This article first appeared on The conversation.

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