The head of the GPA-djp services union and president of the ÖGB trade union confederation, Wolfgang Katzian, has called for the right to negotiate a four-day week in a challenge to the government's recent legislation to allow a 12-hour working day. Many collective agreements already allow the possibility to work a four-day week although this has rarely been implemented in practice. In advance of the autumn bargaining round, there will be a national conference for negotiators on 18 September to discuss working time and the prospect of bargaining around a four-day week or other initiatives to reduce working time such as six weeks of annual leave.
Unions counter 12-hour day with call for four-day week
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Trade unions mobilised over 100000 workers on 30 June in protest at a draft bill that would allow a 12-hour day and 60-hour week and the unions have said they will continue their campaign despite the law being voted through on 5 July. The trade unions have been campaigning against the proposals not just because they pose a threat to workers' health and safety, their rights to work-life balance and undermine rules on overtime but by legislating on the issue the government has intervened in what is seen as a key area of responsibility for the social partners and works councils.
The FO, CGT, SUD and UNSA health federations have written to the health minister calling for an end to 12-hour shifts in the public health sector. Referring to evidence presented to the health and safety committee for the sector, the unions highlight the increased risks faced by those working 12 hour shifts compared to workers on eight hour shifts. The evidence shows greater risks of musculo-skeletal disorders and other health complaints, including high blood pressure and diabetes. There is also the increased of accidents with those working 12.5 hour shifts or longer three times more likely to
The GPA private services union is calling for the adoption of a four-day week across its sectors and will raise this in the upcoming autumn bargaining round. Noting the success of the four-day week in Iceland and the establishment of the right to a four-day week in the retail sector in Austria, the GPA argues that the employers need to see the positive impact on productivity, while workers will get the benefit of better work-life balance. The union also underlines the potential for the four-day week to impact on climate change through its effect on commuting patterns.