Letter urges governments to adopt four-day week

The 4 Day Week campaign has published a letter signed by trade unions and MPs which calls on European Governments to implement a four-day week to rebuild the economy.

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A collection of left-wing politicians and trade unions across Europe have signed a letter urging governments to adopt a four-day working week to help the UK’s post-pandemic recovery.

The letter, which was also sent to Boris Johnson, lists former shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Caroline Lucas of the Green Party and Unite general secretary Len McCluskey among its signatories.

Labour supported a four-day week in the lead-up to the last election on the back of a detailed report by Lord Skidelsky. Business leaders, however, expressed caution at the time, saying it would need to be accompanied by no drop in productivity levels.

The letter comes after campaigning by the 4 Day Week UK group which has been calling for the government to introduce a shorter working hours scheme after the furlough scheme comes to an end. It has welcomed the fact that the Government has been exploring shorter working hours as a solution to the crisis through its Job Support Scheme, but says the design of the scheme has critical flaws, including that it leaves workers with a significant shortfall in pay while failing to incentivise businesses to keep staff on at reduced hours rather than reducing the number of employees.  The campaign favours a four-day, 32-hour working week (or any equivalent variation) with no reduction in pay (except for the highest earners).

Meanwhile, the High Court has ruled that the UK government failed to properly implement European Union law by not extending health and safety protections to gig economy workers.

In a case brought by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), the court found that the UK has failed to grant gig workers the rights they are entitled to under European directives on safety and health at work, which are embedded in domestic law. The Government argued that the law only applied to employees.

The union’s victory means that gig economy workers are entitled to the same EU health and safety rights as employees. Alex Marshall, IWGB president said: “The IWGB contacted numerous companies during the first wave [of COVID-19] and they either did very little or nothing at all as they tried to escape any accountability for their workforce. This ruling is long overdue and the IWGB expects that in the light of this clear ruling, the UK government will now take urgent legislative measures to ensure workers’ safety.”

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