The leader of the UK’s trade union movement has called a four-day working week a realistic goal for most people by the end of the century.
Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Unions Congress (TUC) gave a speech at the organisation’s 150th annual gathering where she said that advances in technology could make this possible.
“In the 19th century, unions campaigned for an eight-hour day. In the 20th century, we won the right to a two-day weekend and paid holidays.
“So, for the 21st century, let’s lift our ambition again. I believe that in this century we can win a four-day working week, with decent pay for everyone. It’s time to share the wealth from new technology, not allow those at the top to grab it for themselves.”
A report from the TUC said that post-war economists promised that employees would be working a 15-hour week by now but the reality is far from this.
Over 1.4 million people are thought to be working seven days a week and 3.3 million are working more than 45 hours a week. Polls show that a four-day week would be most people’s preference to their current situation.
After pay, stress and working long hours are the top most common concerns for UK workers. Companies like Amazon are being called out for being part of the problem, where staff are allegedly “treated like robots”.
O’Grady said: “Jeff Bezos owns Amazon, now a trillion-dollar company. He’s racking up the billions while his workers are collapsing on the job exhausted. We need strong unions with the right to go into every workplace, starting with Amazon’s warehouses here in the UK.”
With the rise of artificial intelligence, many are worried about the effects on the job market and fear that we will lose jobs to robots in coming years. A four-day week is one of the suggestions people have made to deal with the rise of AI and the effects on the job market it is expected to have.
“Instead, new technology is threatening to intensify working lives. For some, the on-demand economy has meant packaging work into ever-smaller pieces of time. This is a return to the day of piece-work, creating a culture where workers are required to be constantly available to work,” the report reads.
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