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September 10, 2018

Unions call for four-day working week and higher pay

Unions call for four-day working week and higher pay

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) general secretary, Frances O’Grady, is calling for the UK working week to be cut to four days.

She claims the workforce deserves longer weekends and higher pay in the wake of new technology, as firms are using technological advances to treat employees unfairly. One company facing scrutiny for unfair treatment is Amazon.

Peter Dolton also calls for re-evaluation of working hours in his IZA World of Labor article, claiming that “life expectancy, aging populations, and inadequate savings…mean that governments need to take a careful look at working patterns and their projected changes in an increasingly technology-oriented future.” 

New technology, like artificial intelligence and automation, could provide the UK economy with a £200 billion boost in the next ten years. O’Grady claims that businesses and shareholders “must not be allowed to hoover up all the gains.”

She suggests that the benefits brought by new technology should allow companies to boost wages and give workers more time to spend with their families. 

In a report from the TUC, poll results show most employees expect managers and shareholders will reap the benefits of new technology. Therefore, the TUC concludes that new technology should be introduced with the consent of workers and that gains from any improved productivity should be shared with them too. 

The report also identified that stress and long hours are employees' biggest concerns after pay. With fears of job loss arising from the takeover of automation, the TUC suggests skills training should be given to those most at risk of losing their jobs. 

There is also concern about the number of employees being made to work seven-day weeks by employers, with the current figure being 1.4 million. 

One company in Wales, IndyCube, already pays its employees a full salary for a four-day week. The founder, Mark Hooper, says the transition was not always easy but now they are outputting more and expanding outside of Wales. 

IndyCube employees say the shorter hours have helped them contribute more at home and spend more time with family. 

Unions once successfully fought for two-day weekends and eight-hour days, and Frances O’Grady sees the fight for the four-day week as no different. 

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