Should The Construction Industry Work A 35 Hour Week?
Full-time workers in the UK have the third longest hours in Europe, putting in an average of 42.7 hours, behind only Greece and Austria. The EU Working Time Directive is in part designed to limit workers to a 48-hour working week and was first incorporated into UK law in 1998. France passed legislation reducing working time further to 35 hours, although this was later scrapped. Under wage agreements German engineers work a 35-hour standard working week, and German construction workers work a 40-hour week. The UK secured an opt-out to Working Time Directive, allowing individual workers to choose to work more hours if they wish to.
Laing O’Rourke chair and chief executive Ray O’Rourke stunned the audience at the Government Construction Summit in London earlier this month with his call for the industry to move to a 35-hour week.
Some Unions are concerned that any move to cut hours will simply be a way to reduce salaries - clearly a move that the unions will not be so happy about. At the current rates simply reducing hours to 35 could leave work forces struggling to pay their bills. If we move to shorter hours, it has to be at decent rates say the Unions.
Since the seventies the structure of the industry, based on a model where the bulk of work is subcontracted, has limited the ability of either unions or enlightened employers to move toward more favourable working practices. The major wage agreements, such as the JIB and CIJC, have provisions for workers to work less than the standard
39-hour week. However, employees’ ability to work fewer hours depends entirely on their employer agreeing to it. In addition these agreements do not cover all workers in the construction industry and exclude professional staff.
So should we work less hours a week? Says Greengates Builders Merchants Accrington Lancashire.