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Changing to four-day week will save jobs, says German union chief

The head of Germany’s largest trade union has proposed a four-day week to protect jobs threatened by digitalisation and the coronavirus-induced economic slump.

Jorg Hofmann, head of IG Metall, said he planned to negotiate the reduced working hours for his members in wage talks with major players in the German automotive and mechanical parts sectors.

“The four-day week would be the answer to structural shifts in sectors such as the automotive industry,” he told the Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

The proposal “would allow industrial jobs to be retained instead of being written off”, he insisted.

Digitalisation and the shift towards electric mobility have uprooted the German automotive industry, with major manufacturers planning to cut jobs in coming years.

Mr Hofmann, whose union represents 2.3 million Germans, claimed a four-day week would allow companies such as Daimler and Bosch “to retain specialist workers and save money on redundancy packages”.

Initial talks with industry representatives were “met with widespread approval”, he said.

But he warned there would also have to be wage compensation “so that employees can afford it”.


German industry has experienced an unexpectedly robust recovery since the height of the pandemic when production was run down to a minimum, with orders rising 28pc in June.

But the prospect of a V-shaped recovery has not stopped struggling car makers working on restructuring plans.

Daimler is reported to be on the verge of expanding job cuts to 30,000 globally. BMW is planning to cut 6,000 of its 120,000 staff worldwide, while Volkswagen announced up to 7,000 job losses last year.

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