Friday, August 27, 2010

Wages and Prices in the USSR (Excerpts)

Wages and Prices in the U.S.S.R.
A Reg Bishop Pamphlet
London : Published for British-Soviet Society by Metcalfe & Cooper, 1946.


Soviet basic wages in the engineering industry are divided into eight categories, which, taking the lowest category as 100, range up to 350. Here is a table of indices of average earnings in various industries in 1938 - taking linen textiles as 100:

Linen textile ... 100
Confectionery ... 106
Food industries ... 106
Timber ... 110
Woolen industry ... 111.5
Clothing ... 113.5
Cotton ... 114.5
Paper making ... 122
Cement ... 123.5
Leather ... 124.5
Fur industry ... 124.5
Boot and Shoe ... 137
Printing ... 141.5
Chemical industry ... 150
Iron mining ... 153
Coal mining ... 159
Machine building ... 161
Heavy Metal ... 161
Automobile ... 162
Oil extraction ... 163.5
Power House workers ... 164.5

These figures can be modified of course by the situation of the particular plant and other local conditions, and are only intended to give a comparative average.

The hours of work also vary according to the conditions of work. In normal pre-war days miners and others engaged in unhealthy or uncongenial labour worked only six hours as against the normal seven. Since 1938 there have been other changes - coal-mining wages for instance have been brought up to the level of the very highest paid industries.

Taking 100 as the index once again, how do the above wages compare with the salaries paid to technical and supervisory staffs? The following is roughly how the salaries operate in engineering :-

Draughstman ... 350-600
Foreman ... 500-600
Junior engineer ... 500-600
Senior engineer ... 600-1,500
Director of small enterprise ... 1,000
Director of big enterprise ... 1,000-2,000
Director of Trust ... 2,500 upwards

A scale with similar emphasis upon skill, experience and responsibility could be applied to research workers, scientists and other technicians of that character.


PROFIT SHARING. (p. 14-15)

Soviet industry is distinguished from all others by the active part that the workers, through their trade unions, take in its direction. The Soviet worker, no matter what the nature of the job, no matter what his wages, no matter what his capabilities, finds himself a de facto shareholder in the enterprise in which he works, with his trade union delegates functioning in the role of his representatives on the Board of Management. This confers upon the workers rights and a share in the control. It does not give them a right to participation in direct money dividends, but it does ensure that they benefit substantially from a successful year's working.

Every Soviet industrial undertaking operates as a separate unit, and in working out its plan for the year with the appropriate ministry a specific annual profit is estimated. Out of that profit two per cent. goes into what is called the Director's Fund. If, at the end of the year , the profit exceeds the estimate, 50 per cent. of the surplus goes into the Director's Fund, and is used by him for improving the social amenities (kindergartens, creches, libraries, etc.) attached to the plant, subsidising the canteens, and in the payment of additional bonuses. The remaining 50 per cent. goes back to the ministry and is used for further capitalisation, reduction of prices, and so on.

Such is the position in large-scale industry, but in agriculture, and in the handicraft artels (working co-operative groups) which flourish in the minor industries, it is more convenient to remunerate the labour by direct dividends rather than by wages.

Collective farmers and members of co-operative handicraft groups are, in effect, working shareholders whose earnings depend directly upon the yield of the undertaking. One section of agriculturists, however, are in the same position as industrial wage-earners. They are the workers on the State farms, largely experimental in character, who are paid wages and bonuses. This also applies to the workers on the Machine Tractor Stations, which are State-owned.

The collective farm is a producers co-operative, in which each member is a shareholder and is remunerated proportionately to the yield of the farm; proportionately, however, not to the amount of land, stock, tools or money originally invested when the farm was started, but to the quantity and quality of work performed.

An annual balance sheet is drawn up, and the proceeds, in money and in kind, are distributed as follows:-

a) to the State, by way of taxes
b) to the Machine Tractor Station for the use of machines and services
c) Cost of seed, fertiliser, tools, etc.
d) upkeep of farm buildings, etc.
e) Communal expenses.
f) Social and cultural expenses.
g) Repayment of loans.
h) Reserves.

What remains of money and produce is the net profit of the collective and is divided among the embers according to the value of the work each has performed.

In order to make possible the just distribution of these proceeds, Soviet law recognises a unit known as the labour-day. The value of this unit does not depend solely on the quantity of work performed, but equally on its quality, its skill and the degree of energy required. It is necessary for a shepherd or cow-herd to put in more time on the job than a tractor driver or a field labourer, to earn the reward of one "labour day." A "labour day" does not necessarily represent one day's work - a person can earn payment for two or more "labour days" in one day.

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