(24 April Old Style)
Vladimir Nikolayevich Kokovtsev, minister of finances of Russia, during a sitting of the IIIrd State Duma said: "Thank god, we don't have a parliament." Almost 100 years later, in 2003 the chairman of the new Duma, Boris Gryzlov said: "Parliament is not a place for discussions." At least, now we've got a parliament...
The Council of Ministers adopted the law which was the final point in the introduction of 7-hours long working day in the USSR.
The government of the Russian empire pioneered the labour legislation in 1741, when empress Anna ordered to limit the working day at weaving factories to 15 hours, introduced minimum wages and hospitals for the workers. In 1785, empress Catherine II shortened the maximum working day to 10 hours and limited the working week to 6 days, and prohibited women and children to work at night. The governments of England and France banned their newspapers from reproducing this law, which was considered too revolutionary.
In 1882, Russian government forbade to use the work force of children below 12 years old. Children between 12 and 15 years could work up to 8 hours a day with a dinner break (later the limit was raised to 9 hours). They were not allowed to work at night and on week-ends. In 1885, night work was prohibited for people under 17 years old (after a series of protests from factory owners, the limitations were weakened).
In 1897, Nikolay II issued a law limiting the working day to 11.5 hours (and 10 hours on Saturdays). The statistical data show that in 1897 the average working year was 2592 hours (2700 hours in USA). In 1908 the average working day on the factories of Moscow was 9.5 hours for adults and 7.5 hours for children. Also, the tsarist government attempted to lower the working day duration to 8 hours. This limit was introduced at some state-owned factories, like Nikolayevsk ship-building plant. US president William Taft said to a group of Russian officials who visited him: "Your emperor has created the labour legislation with which not a single democratic state can compete."
In October 1917, one of the first decrees of the bolsheviks limited the duration of the working time to 8 hours a day and 48 hours a week. The state officials had 6-hour long working day. Also, in 1918, two-week annual vacations and 16-week birth leaves were introduced. The 1922 labour legislation confirmed these norms and limited the overtime work. In 1928-1933 the working day was shortened to 7 hours. Five working days were followed by one day off.
On 19 June 1940, at a meeting of the Soviet government, Stalin said: "Our trade unions have corrupted our workers. It's not the school of communism (Trade unions are the school of communism, wrote Lenin. DM) but the school of self-seekers. They stir up the workers against the administration and indulge them in parasitic trends. Why in capitalist countries the workers can work for the capitalists 10-12 hours a day, and our workers work only 7 hours for their own state? We have made a serious error when we introduced the 7-hour working day. Now we have to ask the workers to make a sacrifice and to increase the working day to 8 hours without increasing the wages." On 27 June the decision was approved. The average working month has increased by 33 hours (8 hours long working day and 6 working days a week, with one day off). The same law prohibited self-willed resignation. Coming at work 20 minutes late was considered absence from work and was punished with 6 months of "correction work" at the work place with 25% salary decrease.
In the period of 1956-1960 the 7-hour working day was restored. The decree of 7 May 1960 finished this transition. The working week remained 6 days long plus one day off. A little bit later the schedule was reformed again to take the final form: 5 8-hour long working days and two week-end days.
After the break-up of the USSR and the restoration of capitalist enterprises, the regulations are all but forgotten. Anyway, I still have four weeks of annual leave and I am appalled by the contract of my old friend who left to the US and who has one week of annual vacations :)