Letter: Shorter working week

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The Independent Online
Sir: Ken Coates's call for a shorter working week (Letters, 7 December) deserves widespread support, for political and moral reasons, apart from the economic case.

The first Labour May Day, in 1890, was in response to a call from the Second International, meeting in Paris in 1889, for the workers of the world to fight for the eight-hour day. Progress to this end was slow, and it was not until 1947 that the Labour government in Britain introduced the five-day working week and the eight-hour day. After more than a century of technological advance and ever-increasing productivity, the majority of industrial workers in the United Kingdom still work an eight-hour day. Many work overtime.

With four million unemployed (closer to the true figure than the Government's doctored figures), it is indefensible to maintain a working week that has remained unchanged for 46 years. The trade union movement should campaign with its brothers and sisters in Europe for a 35-hour working week throughout the European Union, and for a ban on overtime.

This should be supported by the Labour Party as part of a wider programme for social reconstruction.

Yours sincerely,


Waltham Abbey,


8 December