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'Government is seen as the vanguard': Trade union calls for four-day work week pilots

Fórsa says that the pandemic has changed people’s view of a four-day week from “radical” to “feasible”.

Image: Shutterstock/Andrii Zastrozhnov

FÓRSA HAS CALLED for pilot projects in public and private sector organisations to explore the feasibility of introducing a four-day week.

The trade union agreed to call for the change at its virtual delegate conference today, as part of a “steady and managed transition to a shorter working week for all employees in the private, public and community sectors”.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Fórsa’s Joe O’Connor said that the Covid-19 pandemic has allowed workers to “radically” rethink the model of work. 

Citing a Fórsa survey where 75% of respondents believed a four-day week would be desirable for employees, and almost half of employers (46%) said trialing a four-day week in their own workplace was “feasible”.

O’Connor said that the four-day week was part of moving towards measuring the outcomes and results of workers, rather than “the time you spend in the office”. 

[The Covid-19 pandemic has] made workers see they can be productive in a different environment.

He said that he believed employees and employers have gone from thinking a four-day work week was a “radical” idea before the pandemic, to now thinking that it’s “reasonable”. 

He said that the National Women’s Council believe that a four-day week will help create greater gender balance in the workplace, as men will be able to take on “a greater caring role in the home”.

To succeed in achieving a four-day working week, O’Connor says that this has to come from “a combination of leadership in private sector, trade union at the centre pushing the agenda, and government”.

He said that Government is seen as a “vanguard” and a “benchmark” in terms of a four-day working week, as both an employer and a contractor. 

Fórsa biennial conference

Delegates also called for the development and implementation of remote-working and other arrangements to improve work-time flexibility.

They also backed the union’s call for an increase in the number of public holidays; Ireland currently has just nine public holidays, the lowest number in the EU.

The union’s National Executive proposed a motion that called for working time and working patterns to be fundamentally reviewed and reformed in response to the effects of the Covid-19 crisis, new and developing technologies, the climate crisis, and demographic shifts including longer life expectancy.

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“Reduced working time can be an important mechanism for maintaining employment as new technologies replace or change traditional jobs, and for sharing the benefits of improved productivity that flow from automation and other technological developments,” it said.

Fórsa is a part of 4DWI (Four Day Week Ireland), a coalition of businesses, unions, academics and activists established last year to call for reduced working time. 

The trade union Fórsa has 80,000 members. 

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