Working conditions, work life balance and workers’ rights have always been the history of hard-won struggles by organised labour and the trade union movement, to improve, modernise and secure social progress.
Today, the case for a 4 Day Working Week has also become a site of struggle between workers and companies, multi-national corporations and individual employers.
Things we take for granted today, like a two-day weekend, a 35-hour week and holiday entitlements were the end product of struggles, demands and campaigns. They were won – not presented.
Fourth Industrial revolution
We are now in the midst of what could be described as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Roughly one hundred years apart, the use of steam power and mechanical production in the 18th century gave way to electrification and mass production in the 19th century and then, in the 20th century to electronics, IT and automation. All of them brought the promise of potential and new opportunities for working people.
As we now engage with the era of digital information and artificial intelligence, this fourth industrial revolution also holds out the prospects of beneficial changes for working people: but as in previous eras they will be contested and need to be fought for.
Benefits for working people
A four-day week, not condensed hours or any similar number juggling, at current weekly or monthly wage levels is a demand whose time has come. The benefits and opportunities afforded by new technologies, algorithms, cyber space, virtual reality and the uses of artificial intelligence must be reaped by working people and their families, not just by companies and corporations.
As with those who came before us, we need to prepare ourselves for the arguments, the naysayers and the struggle to come. Workers rights are won, they are not bestowed.