By: Kavarna Hayek
A few days ago, the media reported that they will start a pilot project of a four-day working week in the UK. It was organised by the 4 Day Week Global group, and over 3,000 employees from 70 organisations will participate. The project is based on the 100/80/100 formula, which means 100% pay for 80% of working time with 100% productivity.
Sounds good, right? Slovenian comrades are enthusiastic, former Minister Pavel Gantar wrote on the social network that Boris Johnson is breathing down Luka Mesec’s neck and attached a link to an article on the national television portal. There we find enthusiastic comments that something like this needs to be legalised in Slovenia and that there is enough neoliberal exploitation of workers who are modern-day slaves.
In fact, no one has delved well into what this really means, which has also been at the heart of the controversy over such pilot projects in Belgium and Germany. Does 80 percent of your work time mean you’ll work 32 hours a week instead of 40, or does that mean you will work four instead of five days but still have to work 40 hours? There are also different interpretations of productivity: does 100% productivity mean that you will do as much per hour as you have done so far, or does that mean that you will do as much in 32 hours as you have done in 40 hours so far?
In interpreting 80 percent of working time, they quickly agreed that this meant 80 percent of the work week, so, that the worker would work four instead of five days and that he would have three days off per week. Regarding 100% productivity, it remains to be clarified: whether this means hourly worker productivity or weekly productivity. But let’s go one step at a time.
Productivity is a concept and measure of work performance used to measure worker efficiency and is calculated as the value of production performed by a worker per unit of time (per hour, week, or month).
To understand productivity, let’s take a hypothetical example that I will completely simplify.
The work week has 40 hours. A worker makes 10 units in one hour (performs a service or makes things), his salary is five euros per hour (200 euros per week) or 0.5 euros per unit. In the market, the company sells 1 unit for 5 euros. Thus, one worker makes 400 units of products (or services) worth 2,000 euros per working week.
What happens if the working week is shortened to four days and the worker only works 32 hours? A worker still makes 10 units in one hour, the hourly value of units remains 50 euros, and the weekly value of units is reduced to 1,600 euros. If we evaluate the employee’s salary financially, the employer pays 0.5 euros per unit worked or performed during the 40-hour working week, and 0.63 euros per unit during the 32-hour working week.
This is, of course, unacceptable for the employer: the employer’s income decreases, while the employee’s salary per unit produced or manufactured increases, which in turn means lower profits. The employer has the option of raising the price of the product to 6.25 euros (for the employee to bring him 2,000 euros per week), but this risks that he will no longer be able to sell the product (or service) on the market due to competition.
In Germany and Belgium, the interpretation of the four-day working week was left to an agreement between the employer and the employee. In some companies, it was agreed that a worker would work 10 hours a week instead of 8 hours a day, while in others, workers agreed to a lower wage (instead of 200 euros a week, only 160 euros). But because the 100/80/100 formula has been adopted in the UK, 100% productivity will mean either a longer working day (10 hours a day for 4 days a week) or a worker will do in 32 hours as much as now in 40 hours. Likely, the former will prevail, because if we are talking about a 100% salary and a four-day working week (80%), then 100% weekly productivity also applies. Otherwise, we should be talking about the 100/80/80 formula. Which is not to say that some companies will not act differently.
But something must be clear. It is a matter of agreement (contract) between the employer and the employee, what will be the salary and what will be the working week. No one is forcing anyone to do anything, the employee has every chance not to accept the offered conditions of the employee. And the state has no right to interfere in this relationship. If any of the employers want to experiment, let them do so. It is known from history that neither the state nor the trade unionists were the ones who contributed to the 8-hour workday, but the industrialists more than a hundred years ago.
So, the formula 100/80/100 does not mean less work for the same pay that some comrades on the left imagine, it means the same amount of work done for the same pay (only in a more compact period of time).