NEWS
10/09/2018 00:01 BST | Updated 10/09/2018 18:04 BST

Four-Day Working Week Could Become A Reality This Century, Says TUC Chief

Frances O'Grady says modern technology is creating a culture where workers have to be "constantly available".

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TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady

A four-day working week could become a reality this century, according to the Trade Union Congress.

In a key speech to the TUC’s annual congress on Monday, general secretary Frances O’Grady will call for ever-evolving technology and communications methods to be used to improve the lives of workers and cut the number of hours spent in the office.

In the nineteenth century, unions campaigned for an eight-hour day. In the twentieth century, we won the right to a two-day weekend and paid holidays,” she will say.

“So, for the twenty-first 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.”

A new report by the organisation says post-war economists promised employees would be working a 15-hour week by now and that polls show a four-day week would be most people’s preference. 

“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,” the report reads.

“This is a return to the days of piece-work, creating a culture where workers are required to be constantly available to work.” 

More than 1.4 million people are now working on seven days of the week, with 3.3 million working more than 45 hours a week, according to the report.

TUC polling has also identified stress and long hours as workers’ biggest concerns after pay.

Union chiefs have cited companies like Amazon as being part of the problem, where warehouse workers are allegedly “treated like robots” and have been treated by paramedics for health issues at work.

“It’s time to share the wealth from new technology. Not allow those at the top to grab it for themselves,” O’Grady is expected to tell delegates in Manchester.

“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.”

An Amazon spokesperson said:  “Amazon provides a safe and positive workplace for thousands of people across the UK with competitive pay and benefits from day one. We have a focus on ensuring we provide a great environment for all our employees and Amazon was recently named by LinkedIn as the 7th most sought after place to work in the UK and ranked first place in the US.

“Amazon also offers public tours of its fulfilment centres so customers can see first-hand what happens after they click ‘buy’ on Amazon by visiting uk.amazonfctours.com.”