Friday, 21 September 2018

LN: Czech trade unions want shorter working week

ČTK |
13 March 2018

Prague, March 12 (CTK) - The Czech trade unions want to push through a shorter, 37.5-hour working week, and cut the present working hours by half an hour a day without lowering the salaries, the daily Lidove noviny (LN) wrote on Monday.

"People would work 7.5 hours a day and have a 30-minute break," CMKOS umbrella union leader Josef Stredula said.

The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic is the lowest in the European Union and firms lack employees, which gives the trade unions a very good negotiating position, the paper writes.

The standard working week is 42.5 hours a week, including a 30-minute break every day.

Stredula plans to officially present the demand for a shorter working week at the CMKOS meeting in late April. He said he believes the change could be introduced within a few years.

Jaroslav Soucek, leader of the influential Kovo union of mostly metallurgical workers, said he expects to start pushing this demand through next year.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) told the paper that shortening the working hours is not on the table now, but he did not rule it out in future.

"Our productivity is still low. It is in fact impossible to shorten the working hours now, but in a longer horizon this may be done. I think our government cannot manage it in the present election term," Babis said.

The paper writes that employers do not strongly oppose the plan.

Chamber of Commerce head Vladimir Dlouhy said the Chamber was very much against the raising of the minimum wage but a shorter working week does not seem to be a big problem.

However, Dlouhy warned that the reduced working hours might negatively influence labour productivity.

Confederation of Industry deputy head Radek Spicar also said it is first necessary to check whether Czech economy is ready for such a change.

"At the moment, a shortening of the working hours may be considered in economies that are prepared for it, which means that they are sufficiently productive and profitable. These are mostly economies in which domestic capital has a dominant position, which consist of final product makers and which are successfully undergoing the fourth industrial revolution concerning automation, digitisation and robotisation," Spicar told LN.

Stredula said approximately 10 percent of jobs would be cancelled due to digitisation. He said Industry 4.0 would create new jobs, but more jobs would be cancelled than created. "The Czech Republic and Slovakia are among the countries most threatened with respect to digitisation," he said.

Soucek said robotisation is moving ahead in metallurgic firms and fewer and fewer workers would be needed.

Czech unionists have got inspired in France, where the working week has 35 hours, and in Germany. According to the latest Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) data, a Czech employee worked 1770 hours in 2016 on average, while a German worked only 1363 hours.

If the working hours were shortened by 30 minutes a day, a Czech employee would have 130 hours of free time more than now every year.

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