Mixed response from politicians: Unions insist on a four-day week


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Mixed response from politicians
Unions insist on a four-day week

Working only four days without a drop in wages: IG Metall wants to fight this through in the next wage round. The trade union is met with criticism and skepticism not only from employers.

On Labor Day on May 1st, the debate about the four-day week flared up again. After a push by SPD leader Saskia Esken for an introduction including wage compensation, employers warned of competitive disadvantages for the German economy. For their part, the Union and the FDP feared an intensification of the shortage of skilled workers. Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil said he could not imagine a four-day week for all sectors.

“Significantly less work with full wage compensation – economically that’s a milkmaid’s bill,” said the chief executive of the employers’ association BDA, Steffen Kampeter, of the “Bild am Sonntag”. “We will only be able to finance our welfare state and climate protection in the long term if we are more willing to work and innovate.” Kampeter, on the other hand, was open to four-day weeks with the same number of hours.

SPD leader Saskia Esken had said that she could “imagine” a four-day week with equal pay. She referred in particular to the needs of parents and studies that show that people work more effectively with a four-day week. Minister of Labor Heil said on ZDF that he knows areas or companies where there is already a four-day week. However, he “cannot imagine that this will apply to all areas of the economy and the world of work”. He doesn’t want “a rigid system”; from his point of view, it’s more important “that we have more working time flexibility over the course of life, that work fits better with life when raising children is the order of the day or when caring for relatives in need of care”.

Incomprehension from the CDU and FDP

The deputy chairman of the Union faction in the Bundestag, Hermann Gröhe, warned that a four-day week would damage Germany’s economy. “Reducing working hours and making work more expensive in times of a shortage of skilled workers would do a disservice to competitiveness,” he told the Tagesspiegel on Saturday. “On the path of economic reason, the SPD leader is once again proving to be a wrong-way driver.”

The FDP made a similar statement. “In view of the blatant shortage of skilled workers, the proposal for a four-day week is incomprehensible,” said parliamentary group leader Christian Dürr to the newspapers of the Funke media group. “Reduced working hours would not strengthen Germany’s competitiveness, but damage it.”

The chairwoman of the German trade union federation, Yasmin Fahimi, fundamentally supported proposals for a four-day week on Deutschlandfunk. However, she did not see a general solution in this, but a decision that had to be made in the respective sectors.

More work volume with fewer working days?

IG Metall boss Jörg Hofmann confirmed that his union wants to stand up for a four-day week with full wage compensation in the collective bargaining in the steel industry that begins in November. He expects that with the four-day week, the total volume of work will increase, said the union boss of “Bild am Sonntag”. “First of all, we need the four-day week for jobs where home office is not possible,” said Hofmann. This applies, for example, to construction sites, shift work and in the steel industry: “A blast furnace has to run through. If you have to work early, sometimes late, sometimes at night, three days at the weekend are very relieving.”

Mercedes CEO Ola Källenius strictly rejected the demands for a four-day week including wage compensation. “If our first priority is to work less with full wage compensation, we won’t win a game internationally,” Källenius told the “Bild am Sonntag”. “Our industry is in a century of transformation. We have to roll up our sleeves. Otherwise the German car manufacturers will lose their top position in the world.”

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