Elon Musk is today the main preacher of one of humanity’s oldest and most popular cults – the cult of hard work. On more than one occasion, the South African billionaire has already puffed out his chest to claim that his week has up to 120 hours dedicated to the break.
Musk’s true obsession with work has been causing controversy after controversy. At the beginning of the month, he clashed with executives at Tesla, his electric car maker, by decreeing the end of the permanent home office and demanding a return to the offices for a minimum (it should be noted) of 40 hours a week.
Last week, an open letter released by employees of SpaceX, the space division of the tech conglomerate, drew criticism of its CEO’s toxic behavior. Even allegations of sexual harassment, denied by Musk, were thrown on the fan. Since then, at least five people involved in the protest have been fired.
But these confusions sound like an old wives’ tale when compared to the endeavor worthy of the dystopian series Black Mirror to which Musk subjected workers at the Tesla factory in Shanghai, China. The information is from the international agency Bloomberg.
After three weeks of lockdown in April imposed by the government to stop the spread of the pandemic, Musk decided to take off the paper a project called “closed circuit” to accelerate the production of cars at the unit, with about 10 thousand employees.
For about a month, the workers were kept in a bubble – with no contact with the outside world – and regularly tested for Covid. Hosted in hastily improvised accommodation in deactivated military camps, the workers even rotated beds, according to their shifts – which lasted up to 12 hours.
Musk’s closed circuit practically tripled May’s production compared to April’s. According to data from a Chinese association of automakers, exactly 33,544 vehicles of two Tesla models were completed.
However, the numbers still fall far short of the pre-lockdown pace. Typically, the Shanghai plant runs seven days a week, 24 hours a day, in three eight-hour shifts. The uninterrupted operation allowed a daily production of more than two thousand units.
Tesla’s plan, reports Bloomberg, is to end the closed loop now in June. Weeks ago, with the slowing of the pandemic, the first wave of confined workers received permission to finally leave the bubble and visit their families – for four days.
No wonder Musk chose Shanghai to build the Tesla factory. In addition to boasting impressive technological know-how accumulated over decades, China is also known for its cult of hard work.
So much so that another business heavyweight – Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce Alibaba – is a staunch supporter of the Chinese 9-9-6 regime: the journey that stretches from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week.
There’s even a generation of young people in the world’s second-largest economy who are rethinking this stifling relationship with work. Popular among university students on social media, the Tangping movement is drawing an innocent protest by encouraging the posting of photos of people lying down, doing nothing.
However, the bulk of the Chinese working class still lives by the logic of work at any cost. Especially because the competition from neighbors, such as Vietnam, does not give a truce. Richest man in the world, Elon Musk thanks you.