Labor and Pay in Bergonia




The People
The Land







Daily Life



See Creative Alternatives to Wage Slavery


To say that workers "own" the means of production is barely a start; to decentralize economic decision-making is but a single good step. 

The real worth of an economic system is in (a) the nature of work therein, and (b) how it rewards work and distributes wealth.  

Pay Fundamentals:

Everyone gets some level of Basic Income from a public fund.  The Basic Income functions as a giant national social security, disability and pension fund.  It also functions as a program for unemployment and relief, and also income supplementation for working people.  

Someone working in cooperative enterprises earns according to their "share" of the enterprise, determined by hours worked, skill level, seniority.  The "Socialist Pay Law" states that no share may be more than six times the smallest share.

The "Socialist Pay Law"--
mitigating pay inequity,
and spreading the wealth.

The "Socialist Pay Law" is to the rest of the world the most conspicuous and notorious feature of the Bergonian system.  It more than anything else in Bergonia scandalizes capitalists in the US and elsewhere.  Many Bergonians regard it as the finest achievement of the Revolution.  It, and the Basic Income, have together enforced the socialist principle of Equality (see #2 the Eight Principles). 

In its first form, in 1936, the law limited the highest pay grade in a single corporation to six times the lowest, so that the corporation president cannot make any more than six times the lowest paid janitor. (e.g. when janitor starts his first day earning $16,000, the president tops out at $96,000.)  The NDP sometimes campaigns to raise this factor, while the SFP resists changing it.  

The anarchists, of course, recite the slogan, "To each according to his need, from each according to his ability," and argue that everyone should all get the same pay.  The socialist purity of this idea resonates with many Bergonians, but everyone knows that wage differentials will be around for a very long time.  The prevailing consensus is that the Socialist Pay Law works to keep the differentials in check.  Nearly everyone believes that this law helps retard the formation of a new Bergonian ruling class.  (Likewise T. Jefferson & other founding fathers in the US believed formation of a new ruling class would be retarded by imposing inheritance taxes.) 

Some people once argued that in the case of the federated corporations the Socialist Pay Law applied only to each collective individually, and not the federated entity as a whole.  This means that if the auto company president belongs to a management collective and the janitor belongs to a "general services" collective, then the president is not limited to six times the janitor's pay.  If this were so, then the managers and professional workers could exploit the federated structure of the enterprise to give themselves huge pay and start oppressing the common workers.  But most people descried this blatant loophole, and an amendment to the law in 1945 expressly stated that the "times six" limit applies to everyone working within a federated collective.  This would be analogous to having the President of Ford Motors making only $96,000 a year, which to a Bergonian seems mighty good.

The next step occurred in 1952 when Congress applied a "times eight" limit to the entire nation, so that the President of the Commonwealth makes $120,000 while every beginning full time janitor and laborer in the nation makes at least $15,000.

Managers of all organizations get perks, even in Bergonia.  The perks often reward the chief in excess of the "times six" rule, but janitors in socialist corporations have more votes than presidents, and the janitors have four opportunities a year to provoke the governing assembly of all workers into limiting the president’s perks or trashing management altogether.  Nevertheless, playing with perks is a major, frequent abuse, as is unauthorized use of corporate property for individual benefit.  (Old fashion graft and stealing are infrequent but hardly unknown).  

The SFP has proposed an amendment to the Socialist Pay Law to include the value of perks in applying the "times six" limit.  The NDP opposes it, or counters that if the perks are going to count, the rate of times six should be changed to seven or eight.  In fact, Berg bosses do fly around, have meetings at resorts (yes, there are, after a socialist fashion, resorts in Bergonia), and some of them are attended by fawning assistants who pick up the dry cleaning.  

But a problem at least as serious is that the workers themselves are at fault for creating too many perks for themselves, and thus risking insolvency. A day-care center, convenience store, recreational club and tavern are all nice things for a factory's workers to provide themselves, but disaster results if a corporation tries to count these items as anything other than part of the "workers portion."  If nothing else, the tax authorities perform excruciating audits.  

How workers get paid in a socialist cooperative enterprise.

A socialist accountant starts off with his collective's gross revenue, and then proceeds to subtract from it the enterprise's costs, consisting of the cost of procuring materials, equipment, energy and outside services, and paying debt service. 

The remainder is designated "labor’s portion"—the portion the workers divvy up among themselves. 

This portion is subject to taxation. Bergonia has eschewed all individual income taxation (save for the self-employed)-- therefore the tax burden rests heavily on the collective enterprises, so that each pays a flat rate percentage net income tax on "labor’s portion."  

The collectives also pay a percentage of labor’s portion to the national pension and health funds. 

Then, after taxes, the remainder of "labor’s portion" is paid out to the workers according to their individual shares in the cooperative.

Most cooperatives rely on "schedules" to compute each worker’s share of "labor’s portion."  There is a great deal of socialist controversy about how to comparatively pay different workers-- how much to depend on whether to pay workers according to skill or talent, seniority or some other criteria.  

There are many collectives who pay all their workers equally; they are called "Pure Red" or "Scarlet" collectives, but most use a schedule of some sort to differentiate pay.

Most schedules differentiate pay on the basis of both skill and seniority.  They start by assigning 1.0 share to a beginning worker making minimum wage (as set by law) for unskilled labor.  Separate schedules exist for each kind of industry, craft or enterprise.  

 Each craft, trade, profession or "job" is assigned to a grade based on a four-fold criteria of "skill, education, risk and effort."  The schedule then sets for each grade a share  for entry level work, and then recommended increases in shares based on seniority. Each schedule typically delineates 16 to 20 pay grades ("share grades") within the range of 1.0 to 6.0.

These schedules are recommended to the collectives by their syndicals, to which the collectives belong.  The syndicals typically establish sitting committees to engage in regular review of the schedules with on-going consultations with the various member collectives, and these deliberations of course must be public.

The schedules are subject to the Socialist Pay Law Hence the range of 1.0 to 6.0 for "share grades."

The practice of work sharing reduces the differentials based on job position and skill.  In the military-style capitalist corporation, every worker has a specific job, usually a very limited function with very precise duties, performed repetitively.  No one colors outside the lines.  In the socialist/syndicalist collective, the workers have every reason to share work and rotate responsibilities.  While it is difficult to expect plant workers and clerical workers in the front office to trade work, there is no reason why all the plant workers can't rotate production, maintenance and grunt work, and there is no reason why the office workers can't rotate bookkeeping, filing, accounts receivables and payables and the like.  Of course this practice depends upon the workers teaching each other and consulting each other.  In this way, more workers acquire more skills in ways that minimize the differences between them-- and increase the worth of each member.

It happens therefore that the most significant differences in pay often depend on seniority.  This may be offensive to many socialist and anarcho-syndicalist thinkers, but in fact the older workers tend to dominate the collectives and thus have been able to succeed in this.  Many Bergonians accept the argument that a worker with many years experience with a collective has invested his life in the collective and deserves something more for that.  They also accept that the older worker's experience and accumulated knowledge is an added benefit deserving of additional compensation.

The monthly pay-out:  Workers obviously cannot wait until the end of the fiscal accounting period for their share, so the corporation gives each worker a monthly paycheck, figured against each worker’s share.  A reckoning is made at the end of a period (usually a quarter). 

Of course this pay-out must be figured realistically, with a wise eye on the corporation’s income stream.  Hopefully management has correctly figured out the workers' shares as a cost of doing business and priced the product accordingly. The pay-out is usually set in accordance with national and regional pay guidelines, again recommended by the syndicals.  When collective and enterprises price their products and services, they typically use the guidelines in computing what capitalists call "labor costs."

Hopefully, when the periodic reckoning is made, the workers will have a surplus to share-- the socialist equivalent to a "bonus" or "profit sharing."  But when bad management or bad times reduce income, the reckoning will reveal a shortfall, and the unlucky collective will have to drop workers’ wages for the next period in order to earn back the shortfall. Besides figuring out how to reduce costs, the only other alternative for the collective is approach one of the development banks for a loan, but the bank will likely stick its fingers into the collective's affairs.  (Banks the world over suck.)  Either way, workers pay suffers.  It is at such times that an angry assembly will give management the boot.

The bottom line is that if a corporation does badly, its workers suffer income decreases. If it does well, the workers see higher pay and bonuses.  Since nepotism is encouraged in Bergonia, the health of the factory, shop or office affects a worker’s father, brother, or nephew as well, and one will tend to work harder when working with family  The wage system puts all workers in the same boat.

The low cost of living in a socialist society

Whenever a citizen questions whether he makes a lot of money or not, he has to consider what his bucks will buy.  A big income is not so big when the cost of living is sky-high.  Some people who make modest incomes have more disposable income because they also have few expenses.  In Bergonia the modest common incomes go comfortably far because the cost of living is in some fundamental ways so cheap.

In theory the cost of goods & services in capitalist economics are so inflated by the charging of surplus value-- the capitalist's profit-- and because of the superfluous costs cause by market inefficiencies.  Such inefficiencies include (a) the extravagances of unfettered management (e.g. ridiculously opulent headquarters, huge expense accounts), (b) massive costs incurred by sales, sales commissions, massive retailing and mark-ups, and (c) the insane costs of obsessive advertising and packaging.  On top of everything else, (d) the system of private property forces everyone to pay for everything up front, requiring the payment of cosmic amounts of interest.  

Socialism is supposed to drastically reduce all this dumb waste.  Socialism in its most basic forms immediately reduces the costs of producing & delivering goods & services by socializing what are expensive commodities in capitalist economies, such as land, health care and insurance/risk management, things that bedevil a businessman in a capitalist country.

In most capitalist countries a person pays enormous amounts for housing-- the rule of thumb in the US is "one-quarter of your income," though many poor people spend a much greater proportion.  A person who rents must pay whatever the market mechanism allows a landlord to charge.  To classical economists the market works mysteriously yet rationally to allocate scarce resources with optimal efficiency, but there is nothing rational about the commodity being allocated by the housing market, which is the arbitrary private ownership of land-based property.  If the citizen buys his home, he struggles against the market to do so.  Worse, the home-buying citizen also has to pay enormous amounts to a bank, because he never has on hand the sky-high purchase price.  One buys a $100,000 house by paying an additional $100,000 in interest to a lender.  On top of all this, he pays property taxes to the state.  

In Bergonia the leasehold comes as almost a right, though how leaseholds get allocated is as controversial as anything else there.  A citizen leases and acquires a permanent family right by paying a combined tax-and-lease payment to the county or city.  The citizen therefore need not leverage the payment of a huge complete cost up front, and therefore never needs to become enthralled to a usurious bank for the privilege of owning a home. The Bergonian system is as if the government acts as a seller who provides owner-financing for the purchase.  Generally the cost of housing comes to less than 15%.

Americans also get to pay sums for insurance, including health, auto and fire insurance.  In Bergonia the socialization of risk has sanitized the risk process of the pollution of profit motive, and this has greatly cheapened the cost of insurance. 


How workers get paid in a socialist cooperative enterprise.

"Everyone a worker, everyone a citizen" -- the equalization of respect and the universality of work.

The low cost of living in a socialist society.

The work week and overtime.

The Economy graphically illustrated

The "Basic Income"--
a guaranteed income for everyone.

This scheme, formally called the "Universal Basic Income," has within Bergonia been the most controversial of the socialist reforms, even more than the Socialist Pay Law.  But the majority of people regard it as their essential safety net.  

Simply put, it is a base income given to almost every adult in the country.  The pay that a person earns from his or her work comes in addition to the basic wage.  

This is not a dole.  For able-bodied adults it is not enough to live on, but just a basic supplement to regular income.  Any able-bodied adult who does not belong to a collective or otherwise have work may collect this income, but work is a requirement.  Anyone not with work must go to the local Labor Registry, where work is provided.  

People on disability get considerably more money than the worker's supplement-- they get an income fully sufficient for life, since they are not expected to work.  As in all other modern societies, people often decry how many deadbeats and pretenders try to get disability-- unfortunately any benefits program will attract fraud, but the problem both in capitalism and socialism is typically not as bad as the majority of hard-working adults think it is, especially if the system (a) organizes medical examinations and diagnoses properly, (b) involves mildly disabled people in retraining and reeducation.  

People over the age of 65 likewise get considerably more money-- it is the national unified retirement fund  that provides a minimum security in old age.  One can make increased voluntary contributions to  personal interest-bearing accounts in order to assure a better payout in retirement.   Here the Basic Income serves the purpose of both a private pension and Social Security.  Since there is no stock market in Bergonia, nearly all investments in Bergonia are quite conservatively predictable in nature.  All voluntary contributions are handled in the form of bonds, annuities and certificates of deposit.  

Much of the Basic Income Fund money is allocated to the Development Funds, which lend money to collectives for new enterprises and new equipment.  Like most things Bergonian, the voluntary contributions and investments are collective, rather than individual.  Many syndicates and collectives have pension funds invested into the Basic Income Funds, as do many professional associations, syndicates and government agencies. The Basic Income Fund offers a great many "collective annuity" products for the collectives.

A supplemental amount of income is also paid to people with children.  There is no marriage penalty.  Certain fines can be deducted from the basic wage, as can child support from non-custodial parents.

In the first few years after the Revolution citizens walked to the socialist banks to collect their payment in the form of cash and food coupons.  People suspected of counter-revolutionary activity and allegiances (ex-capitalists and ex-Kilitan) sometimes had to go the Police station and get their payment from a probation officer.  By the early 1940s all political discrimination had ended, the food coupon system was abolished, and the system was becoming regularized with a national system of bursars who issued checks.  By 1945 most people's checks chose to have their basic income automatically credited to their checking accounts.  This system encouraged the popular use of banks, which in turn generated funds of capital for new and expanding cooperative enterprises.  Now everyone receives their basic income on the first of every month by direct deposit into a checking account.  The hippies, gypsies, drifters, hermits and marginal types tend to live with cash, but even they much go to a bank to collect their income.

This great fund is generated from taxes levied on the net income of collectives and other business entities, prior to payment of the "workers' portion."  It also receives some revenue from the tax on energy, which is a fairly decent way to broadly and evenly tax economic activity.  Americans tend to see this as a huge scheme combining of Social Security, disability, unemployment and welfare.

The cost of guaranteeing income to the entire population is considerable, and the Fund is very large. It might be said that incomes are modest in Bergonia.  They are modest because of the high contributions from productive enterprise into the Basic Income Funds and into the Health Funds.  Bergonia's welfare apparatus suffers from the same graying demographic trends that threaten old age pension plans in the capitalist countries.  Fortunately the cost is ameliorated by the fact that it is cheap to live in a socialist society. 

Some web resources on the Universal Basic Income:

The Citizens Income is a British website advocating "an automatic, unconditional and non-withdrawable income for every citizen, paid for by reducing tax allowances and means-tested and contributory benefits.

Basic Income Grant, an American website, presents proposals and discussion, and contains a fine summary of the different types of guaranteed income schemes.

Basic Income European Network, an English language site featuring European discussion about this important idea.

Philosophica underpinnings of a "Social Minimum."

US Census Income Stats

"Everyone a worker, everyone a citizen" -- the equalization of respect and the universality of work.

Respect is an issue that perplexes hierarchies; it softens relations between the ruled and the rulers, and in many way it enhances performance of the ruled.  But rulers fear the underlying message in a relationship based on respect, that message being that since all men are worthy of respect then no man is any better than the one he bosses.  

The first seeds of respect were ironically sown within the hierarchical system.  The basic form of hierarchy began with no more than fear and desperation on the part of the servant and an expectation of being obeyed on the part of the ruler.  The ruler, becoming vain-glorious, and perhaps confusing his mastery over the human with godly mastery of the universe, demanded more than obedience from his servants.  He demanded homage, which of course he could obtain only through the disciplines of ritual and spectacle.  The homage given to the ruled became more that just another required act, since ritual homage allowed the servant to buy into the ruler's power.  

It took centuries for human hierarchy to evolve from pharaohs and other sun-god-kings to elected presidents; the evolution comprised of a very gradual process of laying down the whip and rewarding obedience, and a concurrent bargained-for process of obedience becoming based on heartfelt loyalty rather than fear.  The process resulted in growth of mutual respect between ruler and ruled, so that they became more as equals, until the executive became the republican first-among-equals.  History describes many fabulous regressions from the evolutionary progression.  Republics have many times let the first-among-equals becomes emperor.

Capitalist theorists are ever so concerned about restraining the power of the state, and the liberal ones among them wish to do so by prescribing respect for the subject, the "citizen," by the state.

John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin & other definers/defenders of the modern liberal state make much ado about the duty the modern state owes to each citizen.  But such men never take the idea of equalization of respect to its logically distilled end-- which is libertarian socialism.  It is impossible for the "liberal state" to treat all its citizens  with respect when it is legitimizes and subsidizes wage slavery, institutionalized price gouging and other exploitative devices.  Capitalism (see Richard Sennett) presumes to give each man respect while maintaining ridiculous degrees of inequality in wealth and power, and subjecting the lower classes to the currents and pressures of market forces.  For all the conservative lies, capitalism cannot equalize respect, and indeed the entire conservative worldview is based on "respectable" people looking down their noses at their inferiors.  For them, there is always the problem of "those people."

In both theory and practice, capitalism pits every man against every other man, and so anyone who receives anything for free is reviled.  It is the jealousy of the inmates in a work camp who didn't get the extra scraps, the very thing the guards encourage.  Thus any humanitarian impulse to public welfare is rather negated by the contempt the recipient gets from the working public and also from himself.  The assumption in capitalist society is that people on public assistance are freeloaders and slackers, although the nature of work in capitalist society (e.g. fast food wage slave) can make living on the dole look good.  The truth is however that the majority of people on welfare in the US have ever wanted to live on it forever, even after the system disarmed the clientele and made it helplessly dependant.   

The body of a democracy is healthy only when every part of it enjoys equal respect.  (Even the asshole deserves respect.)  When everyone wins the assumption of respect, then true equality is achieved, and the likelihood of sectarian, class or other group alienation is reduced.  Respect of course is absent when one group in society regards another as objects, and this is of course the ultimate evil within both capitalism and racism.  Of course any set of rulers who regard the ones they rule as objects deny them respect, and of course the integration of the ruled into any decision-making affecting them gives them respect.

However democratic formalities are no substitute for genuine regard, even in an authoritarian setting.  A commanding officer, a teacher or coach, or a priest or zen master who loves his student is sometimes not restrained from barking orders or from even using the whip.  Of course the most absolute form of authority in human life is also the most loving relationship--that between parent and child.   

Berg Soc wants everyone to work, to contribute, and so the mandate is for a full-employment society, even if work is spread a little thin at times.  But respect in Bergonia means more than, or at least something different from, the respect an individual earns in capitalist countries of "making something of himself."  Bergonians are not so individually heroic, and find respect in other ways that subtly affect public policy.  For example, respect is found nesting within a collective, belonging to a neighborhood or group or club, in personal bearing, education, and grandeur of style, and in personal verbosity.  Obviously the standard for gauging respect differs from culture to culture, and is a matter of cultural values.  The Potlach made destruction of wealth respectful, while the Calvinism portrayed by Max Weber made piling up wealth respectful.  Thus capitalist assumptions about the inevitability of greed should be received with extreme caution, no less than any other assumptions about what make people tick.

The Work Week and Overtime

Since 1974 national laws have restricted the work week to thirty-six hours a week. Any work over that must be paid time-and-a-half.  Workers often want overtime. Some (e.g. the SFP) argue that worker self-rule means that Congress should allow workers to work longer hours in their own industries if they want, but this gives some workers power to hog up all the work, and most Bergonian socialists think the available work should be spread around so that no one is unemployed.  Sometimes national labor policy must trump workers’ own preferences, in this case to protect minorities of workers, avoid the abuses of apprenticeship (where senior workers force underlings to work long hours), and reduce the intensive competition that will corrode the quality of life.  

Since the first four hours spent in on-the-job council and committee meetings are counted as overtime, enterprises effectively reward the workers who want to participate-- e.g. they pay themselves to participate in management of the enterprise.


rev. Aug 04




Work and Prison in America:

IN spend the majority of your time in an 8x10 cell.
AT spend most of your time in a 6x8 cubicle.

IN get three meals a day.
AT only get a break for one meal and you have to pay for it.

IN get time off for good behavior.
AT get rewarded for good behavior with more work.

IN PRISON...a guard unlocks and opens all the doors for you.
AT must carry around a security card and unlock and open all the doors yourself.

IN can watch TV and play games.
AT get fired for watching TV and playing games.

IN get your own toilet.
AT have to share.

IN PRISON...they allow your family and friends to visit.
AT cannot even speak to your family and friends on the phone.

IN PRISON...all expenses are paid by taxpayers with no work required.
AT get to pay all the expenses to go to work and then they deduct taxes from your salary to pay for prisoners.

IN spend most of your life looking through bars from the inside wanting to get out.
AT spend most of your time wanting to get out and go inside bars.

IN PRISON...there are wardens who are often sadistic.
AT WORK...they are called managers.