The Tories Want Us To Work Until We Die So Labour Must Now Make The Case For A Four-Day Week

Radical neoliberalism must be met with radical socialist policies to dispel the potential suffering of so many, Labour party activist Tom Hinchcliffe writes.

With a leading Tory think tank proposing increases to the state pension age from 68 to 75 over the next 16 years, it is clearer than ever that the Conservative Party want to work us until we die. The Centre for Social Justice, which was cofounded by former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan-Smith, is seemingly looking to end the notion of retirement completely as it suggests barring older people from collecting their state pensions until the age of 75.

With the current life expectancy in the UK only decreasing after ravaging cuts to health and social services across the country, this gives people only around five years of freedom from work before they reach the average life expectancy of 80.

In the face of this right wing plot to put an end to the liberty of retirement, with the state pension primarily benefitting the working classes who need it most, Labour must officially join the calls for a four-day week. Radical neoliberalism must be met with radical socialist policies to dispel the potential suffering of so many.

The fact is that workers in Britain work the longest hours for the least money – many on zero hours contracts and burdened by unpaid overtime. Forcing the British workforce into more work at such an old age will only exacerbate instability among the most vulnerable.

Polling has already shown that the overwhelming majority of the public support the implementation of a four-day week, and it is surely a vote winner for a party such as Labour that has long been at the forefront of the working class struggle and could go as far as winning over swing voters dismayed by the Tory push to keep them in work for as long as possible, for as little salary as possible.

“There is no reason why Labour can’t and won’t win this victory for working people either.”

But, the case for the four-day week must begin with the wellbeing of workers. Both the physical and mental health of workers is paramount to productivity and prioritising this through making them work less will simply result in fewer sick days. This would not boost overall productivity for obvious reasons, but would save money for our already stretched NHS. In 2017-2018, the Health and Safety Executive released figures claiming that around 600,000 people were forced to take sick days due to work-related anxiety or depression. The total cost of work-related injury and illness to the public purse is estimated to total around £15 billion per day.

With Parliament officially declaring a climate emergency, it’s so important to look at the environmental impacts of overwork. Fewer people travelling to work everyday, mainly in cars causing extreme congestion on roads up and down the UK, will result in fewer emissions. As a human race, we are at a tipping point where climate change could become irreversible in the very near future and a four-day week is just one way Britain can lead the way in preventing this from becoming a reality.

As automation enters our lives and looks to change the nature of work completely, a four-day week may also be one of the ways to facilitate this necessary change without forcing people out of work completely. Having that extra day off every week gives working people more free time to spend money and put it back into the economy. With an extra day of trading, local businesses have the opportunity to thrive once again and with the money may be able to hire more staff or pay their current staff an improved wage.

Debunking the myth that the four-day week would lead a decrease in productivity levels has been put to bed by several firms in Sweden and across Scandinavia where studies have suggested giving workers the option of a four-day week, with no changes to pay, has had no impact on worker output.

Historically, Labour has fought and won the battles for an eight-hour working day, the minimum wage and maternity pay. There is no reason why Labour can’t and won’t win this victory for working people either. Not only is it right that Labour take the Tories to task over their unforgivable plans to force people to work until their deaths, its an election winning policy that can be communicated with ease because of the aforementioned points that touch base with almost every demographic of the population.

With the trade unions beginning to move behind calls to implement the four-day working week, Labour must now declare their support for the grassroots movement which is having great success at Constituency Labour Party level and where motions are being continuously passed to be put to Labour Party Conference in September. The policy will almost certainly be debated on the floor of the Brighton Conference Centre.

It’s time, once again, for Labour to stand up for the best interests of the working classes and lead the charge against a Tory government that would stand by as people are worked until they die.

Tom Hinchcliffe is communications manager for the Labour party.


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