Today we are launching the first factsheet of our new information series explaining why trade unions are pursuing a policy of reducing working time.
With the recent publicity surrounding the 4-day week, the possibility of reducing working hours is on the minds of many workers. More and more pilot projects are testing it, especially in small and medium-sized enterprises, but also in the public sector in regions such as Valencia in Spain. Politicians such as the European Commissioner for Employment, Nicolas Schmit, have spoken out in favour of it.

Our new information series looks at different aspects of working time reduction in the manufacturing sector:

  • trends and patterns in the manufacturing sector,
  • the different models of working time reduction,
  • its usefulness in managing the twin transition, e.g. by facilitating training
  • its role in making jobs more attractive and enabling a better work-life balance

Our information series is based on the findings of a new study by Dr Torsten Müller on working time trends in the manufacturing sector in Europe, published by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI). The study is based on the latest academic literature as well as on reports from industriAll Europe member organisations that took part in a survey.

Reducing working time has always been a trade union priority, going back to our movement’s historic victories for the 5-day week and paid holidays. This priority remains high on the trade union agenda today. IG Metall in Germany, for example, has included the demand for a 4-day week in its steel sector bargaining round this autumn. Other unions, such as Unite in the UK, have been campaigning for the 4-day week for several years.

It is important to note that the 4-day week is only one model of reduced working time. In the Nordic countries, trade unions approach working time from a lifelong perspective. They negotiate for workers to be able to adapt their working hours to care responsibilities and to opt for early retirement, rather than pushing for a general 4-day week. A lifelong perspective on working time, and in particular early retirement with dignity, remains a key priority for trade unions in manufacturing, especially in sectors with arduous work. 

Our communication series will provide a deeper analysis of the many facets of working time reduction, taking into account the major challenges of today, such as overcoming the cost of living crisis while ensuring a Just Transition to a green economy and a fair digital transformation.

Isabelle Barthès, Deputy General Secretary of industriAll Europe, said:

" Calls for a reduction in working time are raising the eyebrows among many employers and conservative policymakers. Faced with an extremely tight European labour market and skills shortages, their default response remains to push for longer working hours and more flexible overtime.
“Our information series will show that collectively negotiated reductions in working time can be part of the solution, helping to ensure a fair green and digital transition and attract skilled workers.”

ETUI Study Friday on my Mind - working time in the manufacturing sector