Germany eases Sunday work ban

FRANKFURT - Bonn yesterday gave a boost to the competitiveness of German industry when it approved legislation to loosen the restrictions on Sunday working, writes John Eisenhammer.

Germany has shorter working hours and more public holidays than its industrial competitors. With few exceptions, German factories may operate only two shifts daily and may not work on public holidays or Sundays.

The new rules will allow firms to run their machinery for longer. Among reasons that companies may cite as grounds for extending their machine running times is pressure of competition from abroad. Technical reasons can also be invoked to request approval for Sunday working.

The proposals allow shifts to be extended to up to 10 hours a day as long as workers do an average of eight hours over six months. The current law requires an eight-hour average over two weeks.

'We are recognising that it is not just a matter of individual working hours, but rather the more decisive question of machine running times,' Norbert Blum, the Social Affairs Minister, said.