27 Sep 2022

Council of Trade Unions calls for four-day work week, better employment conditions

8:38 pm on 27 September 2022
Wide Angle View Of Busy Design Office With Workers At Desks - open plan office

Photo: 123rf

The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) is suggesting a Ministry of Green Works and a comprehensive pilot of a four-day working week as parts of a strategy to develop the economy.

It has launched the 'Building a Better Future' plan to make New Zealand a better place for workers as well as businesses.

CTU economist Craig Renney said the current economic system and the disruptions caused by the pandemic had increased divisions within the country.

"We reject a future in which we simply return to all the problems we had before - such as homelessness, inequality and economic insecurity."

The report has put forward five economic "missions" with associated policies, to improve on worker and national wellbeing, tackle climate change, housing, work-life balance, and economic equity.

The proposals include a national investment bank to finance key economic goals, with a levy on bank profits as a source of funds, along with a new government-owned default KiwiSaver provider.

It is also suggesting a Ministry of Green Works to tackle key infrastructure projects, housing, climate resilience, economic equity, and 'decent work'.

On climate change, the CTU proposed national plans to mitigate its impact, and manage the transition away from fossil fuels and the adoption of new fuel sources such as hydrogen.

The CTU also called for A Decent Work Act to replace the Employment Relations Act, including a proper pilot of a four-day work week, and providing for free early childhood education.

"We think there's an audience for that here. Now, of course, this is the start of our journey, and this is not the finished product," Renney said.

Renney said it would now consult and engage with the widest range of groups and businesses to look at the details of how such policies could be designed and implemented.

The 'Building a Better Future' proposals are available here.

UK trial showing "encouraging" signs

Four Day Week Global chief executive Charlotte Lockhart told Checkpoint the midpoint results of a four day week trial in the UK had shown encouraging signs.

"Well over 80 percent of our people are finding their productivity has either stayed the same or has increased and they are looking to continue with reduced hour working in some form whether it's a four-day week or some other form of reduced hour working post the trial, so that's pretty encouraging," Lockhart said.

The four-day working week trial was designed to aid business owners in maximising their employees' productivity while also reducing work hours, she said.

Businesses taking part in the trial had found the mood of their employees experienced a boost and employer-employee relations were seen to improve, Lockhart said.

"What the business owners are finding is there is a much better vibe at work and so therefore everybody seems to enjoy going to work but they're also finding that this is a great business improvement strategy.

"By working with their people to find how to improve the business so that people can have time off they're actually finding all sorts of way of improving their business, whether that be through increasing production, increasing customer experience or any other levers that you might be able to pull in your business which we don't necessarily look at until we decide to focus on them."

Lockhart said there were thousands of companies trialling the shorter work week across the globe and her business was already supporting hundreds of companies undertaking trials in Europe, South Africa, North America, the UK and Australasia.

While many business owners thought the idea of employees working less was simply "mad", the lifestyle benefits offered by a shorter work week allowed employees to bring their best to work, she said.

"It's just fundamental human psychology that actually when our people are well-rested, have less burnout, have the sort of things in their life that are necessary for them to be whole people outside of work that they're actually able to bring a better person to work and so it's that that we're unlocking in terms of the human capital side of things."

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