40-hour work week ‘useless’, says minister
19 August 2004
BRUSSELS – Belgian Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx, who oversaw the introduction of the 38-hour work week during her tenure as federal employment minister, said that returning to a 40-hour week would be ‘useless’, it was reported Friday.
In an interview with Le Soir, the Socialist minister said she believes that rather than increasing worker productivity, a 40-hour week would actually do just the opposite. “Belgium is, both at European and international level, already at the top end of the productivity scale,” she said.
The minister said that for specific companies in financial trouble, there are other options besides forcing workers to work longer. “In Belgium, the social partners at a company sit around a table and search together for solutions to their problems.”
She also lamented the lack of attention to the need for a balance between workers’ private and professional lives in the ongoing national debate over the work week.
The debate comes as the management of Liege-based smelting works Marichal Ketin attempts to raise firm’s work week to 40 hours without a pay rise. Managers have asked the factory’s 140 employees to consider the move in an effort to keep the works afloat and save their jobs.
However, at a meeting Thursday, top union representatives continued to express their staunch opposition to the move.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news