Dear Prime Minister Boris Johnson, President Elect Joe Biden, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and First Minister Mark Drakeford,
We’re writing from the UK, the US, Germany, Spain, New Zealand, Ireland and Wales as an international coalition of politicians, trade union leaders, business leaders, academics and campaigners demanding shorter working hours as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Throughout history, shorter working hours have been used during times of crisis and economic recession as a way of sharing work more equally across the economy between the unemployed and the overemployed. We believe they should be deployed again now to help deal with the economic fallout of the pandemic.
Across the world, people are reimagining a better future post Covid-19 and overwhelmingly they want a better work-life balance. Since the introduction of the weekend and the 8 hour day after the Great Depression in the 1930s, working hours continued to gradually decrease until around the 1980s. Since then the reduction in working hours has stalled.
Despite promises, huge technological advances and automation have not ushered in a new era of more free time.
For the advancement of civilisation and the good society, now is the moment to seize the opportunity and move towards shorter working hours with no loss of pay. We need to get economies working to improve people’s lives, rather than people simply working to improve the economy.
We have been encouraged by comments made by Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, speaking in favour of a four day working week and we note that both the Scottish and Welsh Government’s have set up Commission’s to explore the proposal further. There have also been positive trials in Finland and Iceland, and the Valencian Government in Spain have recently backed a four day week.
Shorter working hours would not only be good for the economy, but they are going to be crucial for boosting mental health and tackling climate change. A four day week would signal a critical shift in the design of our economies towards the wellbeing of people and nature, as we prioritise the urgent need to bring down carbon emissions to safe levels.
We stand at a critical moment in time, amidst political, economic and environmental crises. Rebuilding economies offers an opportunity to affect much-needed change to the lives of billions of people, but the move to shorter working hours will only happen with the support of Government’s working alongside trade unions and businesses.
We stand on the shoulder of giants who campaigned for the introduction of the weekend and the 40 hour week. Our world would be immeasurably better, fairer and happier with more free time and we urge you to seize the moment.
Joe Ryle - 4 Day Week Campaign (UK)
Jon Steinman - 4 Day Week US
Mark Hooper - 4 Day Week Cymru (Wales)
Joe O’Connor - Four Day Week Ireland
María Álvarez - Campaña 4 Suma: por la semana laboral de 4 días (Spain)
John McDonnell - Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington & former Shadow Chancellor (UK)
Katja Kipping - Chairwoman of Die Linke (Germany)
Iñigo Errejón - Más País MP at the Spanish Parliament
Sophie Howe - Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
Len McCluskey - Unite General Secretary (UK)
Mark Serwotka - PCS General Secretary (UK)
Dave Ward - General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union (UK)
Caroline Lucas - Green MP for Brighton Pavilion (UK)
Clive Lewis - Labour MP for Norwich South (UK)
Inés Sabanes - Equo MP at the Spanish Parliament
Mónica Oltra - Vice-president and Minister for Equality and Inclusive Policies of the Valencian Government (Spain)
Joan Baldoví - Compromís MP at the Spanish Parliament
Carles Mulet - Compromís MP at the Spanish Senate
David Adler - Chair of the Coalition for a Green New Deal for Europe
Andrew Barnes – Architect of 4 Day Week Global and founder of Perpetual Guardian (NZ)
Charlotte Lockhart – CEO of 4 Day Week Global (NZ)
Philipp Frey - Zentrum Emanzipatorische Technikforschung (Germany)
Margareta Steinrücke - Attac AG Arbeitfairteilen (Germany)
Guðmundur D. Haraldsson, Alda -- Association for Sustainable Democracy (Iceland)
Will Stronge - Director of Research at Autonomy (UK)
Aidan Harper - New Economics Foundation (UK)