The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread use of short-time working in response has rekindled the debate about permanent shifts to shorter working hours. Germany's biggest engineering union, IG Metall, has put forward ideas about a move to a 32-hour week and this had been taken up by the CGT trade union confederation in France which has had a 32-hour-week policy for some time. In the UK, the Autonomy research organisation has proposed and costed a plan for the public sector to take the lead and move to a 32-hour week without loss of pay.
Crisis rekindles working time debate
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Following a surge in interest among local branches, the Forsa public services union has launched a debate about working time reduction with an international conference in Dublin on 22 November. The union underlines the potential of digitalisation to increase productivity and create the potential for a shorter working week. The conference included contributions from the UK where the Trade Union Confederation has called for a four-day week and from Germany where the IG Metall engineering union has negotiated major new agreements providing the potential for employees to reduce their working time.