Fórsa has called for pilot projects in public and private sector employments to explore the feasibility of introducing a four-day week without loss of pay or productivity.
The union’s biennial delegate conference, which took place on a remote basis yesterday (19th November), agreed the initiative as part of a “steady and managed transition to a shorter working week for all employees in the private, public and community sectors.”
Delegates also called for the development and implementation of remote-working and other arrangements to improve work-time flexibility “to the benefit of workers, employers and the economy.”
And they 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.
A conference motion proposed by the union’s National Executive called for working time and working patterns to be fundamentally reviewed and reformed “in light of the experience of the Covid-19 crisis, and in response to the impact of new and developing technologies, the climate crisis, increasing caring demands, and demographic shifts including longer life expectancy.”
“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 has played a leading role in 4DWI (Four Day Week Ireland), a coalition of businesses, unions, environmentalists, academics and NGOs established to campaign for shorter working time in all sectors of the economy.
The coalition, which was launched last year, says reduced working time is better for business, better for workers, better for women, and better for the environment.
Earlier this year, the union’s submission to the State’s public consultation on remote working called on the Government to open a dialogue with unions and employers, aimed at strengthening the legal framework around remote working, including the possibility of a legal right for employees to seek remote working and other flexible working arrangements.
Speaking at the Fórsa conference, the union’s Vice President Eugene Gargan said automation and other new technologies were set to erode “vast volumes” of routine work.
“As automation increases productivity, reduced working time without loss of pay is the means of sharing the benefits of new technology and sharing the available work. The same thing happened in previous technological revolutions, which led to reduced working time.
"This proposal is an imaginative and realistic response to the radical changes that are occurring in technology, work organisation, and working time,” he said.
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