How many individuals and organisations are advocating the topic of working time reduction in your country and do you form partnerships?
In Germany specially attac is advocating the reduction of working time in form of the so called “short full time” around 30 hours per week. This demand is supported by christian workers associations like Katholische Arbeitnehmerbewegung/KAB and Kirchlicher Dienst in der Arbeitswelt/KDA, but also by known scientists like Jutta Allmendinger, president of the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin/WZB, Stephan Lessenich, former president of the German Association for Sociology, and Nicole Mayer-Ahuya, professor at the University of Göttingen and in the presidium of the Soziologische Forschungsinstitut/SOFI Göttingen.
In the political parties Gesine Schwan, president of the programm commission of the SPD, is advocating the 30hours week, and Bernd Riexinger, one of the speakers of Die Linke, is promoting a campaign for a new agreement on labour conditions with a short fulltime between 28 and 35 hours. Also womens organisations are claiming for a radical reduction of working time to 20 hours a week, prominently Frigga Haug with her 4in1-perspective, and degrowth promoter like Nico Paech, professor for economy at the University of Siegen.
In the trade unions the IG Metall broke in 2018 after more than 20 years the silence on working time reduction and fought a collective agreement with
- the option to reduce the weekly working hours to 28 (from 35 usually), but for a maximum of two years and without compensation of wage and stuff
- the possibility to change a supplementary part of the wage (27,5%) into 8 free days (2 more than the real worth), but only for workers with care obligations or working in shift. First experiences with the realisation of this agreement show that specially the second possibility is widely used.
The same experience is already made by the EVG (Eisenbahn- und Verkehrsgewerkschaft) where an agreement with the possibility to get the wage increase either in money or in free time is used by 60 % of the workers in free time. In the second biggest trade union VER.DI considerations are running on 14 supplementary free days for every worker instead of fixed weekly working hours like 35 or 30, because the different branches organised by verdi have working time agreements in the whole spectrum between 34 and 41 hours per week.
In several towns there are local alliances for working time reduction, e.g. in Hamburg and Bremen, where trade unions, attac and the christian workers movements cooperate. Nationwide exists an initiative “Arbeitszeitverkürzung jetzt!” (Working Time Reduction now!) with different people from trade unions, science, politics and social movements favourable to a short full time around 30 hours per week.
What is your group’s actual proposal for the reduction of working time?
The actual proposal of attac-Germany is the “30hours week for Europe with full compensation of wage and stuff” as a new standard of working time that could be taken in different forms (6hours day, 4days week, long project-related working hours with sabbaticals etc.) related to the specific working and living conditions and needs; essential is that the 30 hours are worked in the average of a certain period. Full compensation of wages is specially important for the workers in the lower income categories, the full compensation of stuff is essential to avoid intensification and to reach employment effects. To demand the 30 hours week for Europe is essential to minimize concurrency between the European countries.
Who do you encounter as opponents and what are their counter arguments?
The main opponents are of course the employers organisations, assisted by the liberal party FDP and parts of the conservative party CDU and by neoliberal scientists. They are campaigning for the elimination of the normal daily working time of 8 hours and the maximum of 10 hours (this at the 100. anniversary of the 8hours day!) from the working time law. They argue with the competitiveness of the German enterprises and with the needs and opportunities of digitalisation and globalisation. They vote for the flexibilisation instead of a reduction of working time, also with the pretense flexibilisation would facilitate the compatibility of work and family life. Silent opponents are also some categories of workers, specially those with the experience of low income (Germany has got in consequence of the neoliberal reforms of the labor market Agenda 2010 the largest low wage sector of Europe with about 25% of the working; and the unvolontary part time work increased enormously, 47% of the working women in part time with no living wage) and of the intensification of work. As long as the trade unions don’t argue offensively for the full compensation of wage and stuff in case of working time reduction, these groups of workers are afraid to loose more than to win when working hours will be reduced.
What is the public opinion on working time reduction in your country?
The public opinion was long time rather skeptical in front of working time reduction. But recently the public opinion begins to change. For example the fight of the IG Metall for shorter working hours, leaded with the slogan “Arbeitszeiten, die zum Leben passen” (Working times that fit with life), were rather friendly accompanied by the media. In the younger generation are more and more people who don’t want to spend their whole life for the job. In fact we have a real underground movement for the 30hours week: many people simply do it; though with the drawback that it takes place as an individual measure without compensation of wage and stuff, instead of an organised collective movement with a new working time standard as objective.
What is the next step in the campaign? And what are your short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives?
To continue the enlightenment and persuasion work for a new working time standard around 30 hours, specially in cooperation with the womens groups in the trade unions who are almost favourable to this form of working time. Next opportunities could be the national congress of ver.di in September 2019 and eventually the next pay round of ver.di for the public services where the working time could be an object of engagement. Actually there are two big opportunities to argue for a radical reduction of working time: the fear of many workers of the job destruction by digitalisation and automatisation and the climate change that only can be stopped successfully with radical mesures of exit from fossile fuels, cars, flights etc. To all the workers who must lose their job in these industries we can offer other jobs only by reducing the working hours in the lasting jobs. And an ecolocigal way of living with much caring, reparing, recycling, sharing and self producing needs time and doesn’t allow to spend as much time for gainful work as we do actually.