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John McDonnell: Labour government would introduce a four-day working week within a decade

John McDonnell: Labour government would introduce a four-day working week within a decade
3 min read

A Labour government would introduce a four-day working week within a decade, John McDonnell has declared.

The Shadow Chancellor said the party would reduce the amount of time employees spend at work every week to an average of 32 hours, without a drop in their wages.

He also pledged to eliminate in-work poverty within five years if Labour wins the next election.

In his keynote speech to the Labour conference in Brighton, Mr McDonnell said people in the UK "should work to live, not live to work".

He said the average working week fell from 65 hours to 43 between 1860 and the 1970s, but that progress had "stalled" in the last 30 years.

"So I can tell you today that the next Labour government will reduce the average full time working week to 32 hours within a decade," he told Labour delegates.

"A shorter working week with no loss of pay. We’ll end the opt-out from the European Working Time Directive. As we roll out sectoral collective bargaining, we’ll include negotiations over working hours.

"We’ll require working hours to be included in the legally binding sectoral agreements between employers and trade unions. This will allow unions and employers to decide together how best to reduce hours for their sector.

"And we’ll set up a Working Time Commission with the power to recommend to government on increasing statutory leave entitlements as quickly as possible without increasing unemployment."

The announcement will be welcomed by trade unions but is likely to be fiercely resisted by employers.

Mr McDonnell added: "Transforming people’s lives means ending the modern evil of in-work poverty. Labour has traditionally been committed to full employment. We have always believed that getting a job should be a means to lift yourself out of poverty. But under the Tories the link between work and escaping poverty has been broken.

"So I commit today that within our first term of office Labour will end in-work poverty. That means completely transforming the way our economy works."

He said that would be achieved by strengthening trade union rights, rolling out collective bargaining, introducing a real living wage of £10 an hour and by ending "the barbaric roll-out of Universal Credit".

The Shadow Chancellor also confirmed that a Labour government would introduce free personal care for the elderly, a move which he said would introduce "dignity in retirement".

Elsewhere in his speech, Mr McDonnell also pledged to spend "whatever resources are necessary" for the UK to meet its climate change obligations.


Welcoming the four-day week announcement, TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "It’s time for working people to share in the benefits of new technology. That’s why unions have been arguing for less time at work, more time with family and friends and decent pay for everyone.

"We welcome Labour’s commitment to move to a 32-hour week. Introducing more public holidays and enforcing safe limits on working hours is a sensible start.

"Unions already negotiate agreements on working time in many workplaces. With greater freedom to bargain across sectors, we can help deliver a flexible transition that meets the needs of workers and businesses across different industries."

Laura Parker, national co-ordinator of Momentum, said: "We are delighted that a shorter working week, a policy Momentum campaigned hard for, has been adopted by John McDonnell and is now Labour policy.

"This is what a democratic party looks like. Policy is being written by the movement, with members and the leadership working hand in hand to write the next manifesto and deliver the ambitious, radical policies we need to win the next election."

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