35 hour week unlikely

RECENTLY, the French Govern-ment, in an attempt to reduce high unemployment, introduced a compulsory thirty-five hour work week.

While still receiving the same pay, French workers are not allowed to work more than thirty-five hours in any given week.

The reasoning behind the policy is that, together with large subsidies, French employers will have an incentive to hire more people.

By eliminating overtime, many in France believe this will help to reduce the country’s chronic high rate of unemployment.

In inimitable French style, the policy will be policed and hefty fines put in place for companies that break the new laws.

Though unemployment has decreased significantly across the nation, in parts of Australia it remains stubbornly high.

University of Western Australia head of labour studies Professor Rod Lambert believes the French proposal is ‘interesting’ and does highlight some of the same issues facing Australian employers and workers.

Professor Lambert says that, during the past two decades, the Australian workplace has undergone fundamental change.

Notably, there has been a trend towards more casual workers and increasing hours for those who remain after corporations have downsized.

“If work becomes scarcer, then the issue of reducing work hours to redistribute jobs will come to the fore,” Professor Lambert said.

According to WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Bruce Williams, the French proposal will not succeed either in France or Australia.

Mr Williams said that while the policy was well-intentioned, the consequences would be disastrous.

“You cannot dictate to people how many hours they will work and restrict their income,” Mr Williams said.

“Only through economic growth can you reduce umemployment.

“The French proposal means costs will go up, productivity will go down and in the end this will lead to lower growth.

“Furthermore, the mining industry in WA would simply go bust under such a proposal

“There would be no incentive for people to work in remote and inhospitable parts of WA,” he said.

Trades and Labour Council assistant secretary Stephanie Mayman says the idea of overtime police will not happen in WA.

However she said the issue of excessive work hours in the mining industry is beginning to attract more attention.

Ms Mayman said she knows of cases where some miners in WA are working twelve hour days for six weeks without a break.

“There needs to be some regulation on excessive work hours.” Ms Mayman said.

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