________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 20 . . . . June 6, 2002

cover For Man Must Work.

Jean-Claude Bürger (Director). Éric Michel (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2000.
52 min., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C0100 009.

Subject Headings:
Technological unemployment.

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.

Review by Frank Loreto.

** /4

This is an apocalyptic film about the nature and future of work. With a clear agenda that things are not getting better in this area, the film begins by looking back at how there used to be far more jobs available to people. True, they were more difficult, but now downsizing seems to be the norm, and a manufacturer who once needed thousands of workers can do more with less and remain profitable. In fact, profit seems to be ensured by a constant reduction of the workforce.

     No country is exempt from this reality. The film begins in Cape Breton where coal mining is waning and the jobs are disappearing daily. The impact of this situation on the mining communities is made clear. Coal mining in Britain has been reduced from 161 mines in 1981 employing 200,000 miners to 20 which presently employ 10,000. Similarly in France, where in 1974, 30,000 steel plants existed, there are now 600. The sky was red with pollution back then, but people had work. That situation is mirrored in the United States where U.S. Steel employed 120,000 workers in 1990 and is now producing more steel with 20,000 workers.

     In addition to downsizing, the film highlights the movement of jobs from industrialized countries to poorer nations, hungry for employment. In El Paso, Texas, the minimum wage is $5.50 per hour compared to Juarez, Mexico, directly across the border, where it is $3.20 per day. No surprise that Custom Trimms, a Canadian company, closed all eight plants in Canada to move to Mexico. The Mexican workers are prevented from union activity as any increase in wages could make them too expensive to be attractive. The country fears a relocation of the businesses from Mexico to some other nation hungrier for the jobs.

     For Man Must Work is a disturbing film. There seems to be no hope for the future. Individual rights will no longer apply, as everything becomes a commodity. Workers are not workers, but human resources. The prediction is made that the world's population will become like an ocean of migrant workers surrounding islands of prosperity which will control the movement of business. Shareholder profit and globalization will combine to ensure that the poor become victims of an economic genocide.

     This film is not recommended. While it presents an interesting history of the nature of work, towards the end it gets overly philosophical and offers no solutions. Most of it relies on subtitles and demands much from its viewers. Students will get squirrelly about mid-way through - if they last that long.

Not recommended.

Frank Loreto is a teacher-librarian at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton, ON.

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ISSN 1201-9364