AltInst: Arbitraging Free Time

From: Tom Walker <>
Date: Sat May 09 1998 - 14:00:09 PDT

When a commodity sells for unequal prices in different markets, an
opportunity arises to profit from arbitrage -- buying and selling the
commodity simultaneously in the different markets. The commodity in question
is free time. This proposal would arbitrage the market for free time by
rewarding years of service with more free time rather than with higher
annual income.

The typical collective agreement as well as the personnel policies of many
non-unionized employers contains a schedule of wage rates that provides for
service increments within a job classification and pay grades between
classifications. The unquestioned assumption is that as an employee moves up
the wage rate schedule, the annual paid hours remain constant and his or her
annual income increases in proportion to the increasing wage rate.

An equally logical (but unheard of!) alternative would be to keep annual
incomes steady while reducing hours of work in direct proportion to the wage
increments. That is to say, more free time -- rather than higher income --
would be the reward for skill and years of service.

This is not to say that all people, or even most, would prefer having more
free time to having more income. It is only to point out that nowhere in the
standard collective agreement is it acknowledged that they even might.

Nor does the standard collective agreement offer any comparison of the
relative benefits of such a trade off between free time and income. For an
employee facing a marginal tax rate of, say, 33 per cent for example, one
extra day off would be worth one and a half days' income. Progressive income
taxation means the higher the income, the greater the relative value of free

For an employer, selling free time to experienced, high wage employees and
buying it from new recruits would be a good way to save on labour costs.
Over the longer term, the benefit to the employer would be a well balanced
workforce with progressively experienced younger employees moving up to take
over for the glut of aging baby boomers who will soon be dying, retiring
and/or burning out (if they haven't already).


Tom Walker
#408 1035 Pacific St.
Vancouver, B.C.
V6E 4G7
(604) 669-3286
The TimeWork Web:

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Received on Sat May 9 14:14:01 1998

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