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30 Hour Work Week

by Alternative Economic Policy study group Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2013 at 11:30 AM

Reduced working hours is the only logically and historically consistent answer to the annual productivity increases that are above the real growth rates of the economy and without reduced working hours lead to a decline of work volume and unemployment.



by Alternative Economic Policy study group in Germany

[This open letter to unions, parties, social- and environmental organizations and church administrators in Germany published on 2/11/2013 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

We, the undersigned of this open letter, turn to the representatives of unions, all democratic parties, exponents of social- and environmental organizations and church administrators in Germany with the urgent appeal to give the highest economic, political, social and humanitarian priority to the fight against unemployment. Germany and the whole European Union find themselves in a grave economic and social crisis. Unemployment has reached unbearable levels in Europe. Youth unemployment exceeds 50 percent in some countries, the number of jobs has risen in the last years but they are mainly short-term jobs inadequate as a foundation of life (so-called precarious jobs). Mastering the labor market crisis requires the active participation of all democratic forces in the country. Economic power and neoliberal policy must not burden the wage-earning majority of the population, the unemployed and the socially weak with the strains of the crisis. A fair distribution of work through a collective reduction of working hours is necessary. Let us fight for this together!

For years a socially and economically counter-productive redistribution from labor- to assets-income has occurred. Domestic demand was restricted and surplus capital was rerouted – away from the productive real economy into the financial sector. Enormous financial speculation and financial crises were the results. Crisis management may not be left to those who gained massive profits from the crises and attempt to secure the assets of the well-to-do at the expense of the large majority of the population with pseudo-alternatives and a therapy of symptoms. Nearly forty years of neoliberal capitalism, are enough.

This wrong political-economic track has led to immeasurable social misery all over the world, not only in Germany and Europe. An economic policy that blindly promotes more growth intensifies the dangers of climate change and destruction of nature. Such a policy deepens the tension within and between societies that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.

Neoliberal redistribution would not have been possible without the long-lasting unemployment – neither in Germany nor in any other country. An oversupply on the labor markets leads to falling wages. Therefore the profiteers and their political supporters try to divert from the fact of existing mass unemployment with all their strength. Neoliberals in Germany act especially vehemently. Their propaganda that there is nearly full employment in Germany borders on cynicism given the reality of mass unemployment. Shortage in skilled workers that is artificially exaggerated could be quickly removed through better compensation and in the longer-term through better retraining. The claim of neoliberals that we must work longer on account of demographic change and securing pensions lacks any verifiable basis.

On the other hand, around 6 million people in Germany are unemployed or under-employed if we include involuntarily part-time employees and the marginally employed. While many persons suffer under psychological consequences of unemploym,ent in the form of depressions, inferiority feelings etc, workers in the factories bear the consequences of overtime. Stress, burnout, psychosomatic and chronic sicknesses dramatically increase as several academic studies verify. This condition is unworthy of a modern society in the 21st century. The dominant neoliberal model under conditions of mass unemployment has robbed unions of much of their creative power and driven them to the defensive. Employees worry about losing their jobs. A conduct of employees and the unemployed bordering on subservience is invoked. Readiness for considerable concessions (lower wages, longer working ho9urs, greater work concentration, more flexibility etc) and further weakening of unions – not only in wage negotiations – rest on that. Nearly a million low-earners slave away 50 hours and more a week to gain an income from which one still cannot live. Despite work, more and more employees depend on Hartz IV as a “supplement” (Hartz IV is the drastic German welfare reform that combined unemployment benefits and income support, radically reduced the duration of benefits and was ruled in violation of the German basic law by the German Constitutional Court). Those who have nothing are sent into old age poverty. The conditions in most other states of the European Union are similar or even worse.

Mass unemployment is the cause of ruinous competition among employees and promotes the genesis of the low-wage sector and discriminating forms of work like subcontracted work and contracts for work without union representation. Therefore a scarcity of work is urgently necessary for the 30-hour week. The average production time in Germany is currently 30 hours a week but the work is unequally distributed. The demand for the 30-hour week includes all conceivable forms of working hours (an extended vacation or an earlier opting out of working life or sabbaticals etc). This demand is proposed for all EU states. Mass unemployment is everywhere and increases dramatically in many EU states.

Reduced working hours is an overarching social project, not a wage-policy project. The fair distribution of work takes into account both the interests of employees and the unemployed. Reduced working hours is an important step to equality and a sensible family measure regarding its effect of making possible the compatibility between family and calling.

The distribution possibility always depends on the rate of productivity and price increases. Reduced working hours is the only logically and historically consistent response to the annual productivity increases that are above the real growth rates of the economy. Without reduced working hours, these productivity increases lead to a decreased work volumes and unemployment. Reduced working hours is only possible with full wage- and personnel adjustment. Otherwise the wage rate falls again as macro-economic calculations show (cf. Heinz-J. Bontrup/ Mohssen Massarat: Manifesto for Overcoming Mass Unemployment in: Ossietzky, May 2011 and reprinted in: Reduced Working Hours Now! 30 Working Hours! Pad-Verlag). For that reason, we urge union leaders in wage negotiations, academics, politicians and journalists to oppose the claim that reduced working hours with full wage- and personnel adjustment is impossible.

The “Reduced Working Hours Initiative” cannot start from employees and their factories on the micro-economic plane. Initiation by a concerted DGB union campaign overarching the companies is needed. Union leaders have to fulfill a towering responsibility. The end of mass unemployment can ultimately only be introduced with broad support from politics, social- and environmental organizations, the churches and the whole civil society.

We know about the strenuous conditions in the factories where workers resisted extended working hours after the struggle over the 35-hour week came to a standstill. We know many cases where employees had negative experiences since past reduced working hours without hiring the unemployed often had to be paid with increased work pressure. Enlightenment work in the factories is necessary in the context of personal planning.

Only a collective reduction of working hours on a 30-hour week is the crucial key for the perspective of full employment – if not the most important. We declare our readiness to actively support and accompany a social campaign.

First co-signers (as of 2/10/2013)


Erstunterschriften (Stand 10.02.2013)

Prof. Dr. Erwin Jan Gerd Albers, Hochschule Magdeburg

Norbert Arndt, Stellvertretender Bezirksgeschäftsführer ver.di Bochum-Herne

Clarissa Bader, 1. Bevollmächtigte IG Metall Gevelsberg-Hattingen

Friedrich-Karl Beckmann, Konzern-Betriebsratsvorsitzender Philips Deutschland

Prof. Dr. Benjamin Benz, Evangelische Fachhochschule Bochum

Petra Bewer, Stuttgart

Prof. Dr. Heinz-J. Bontrup, Westfälische Hochschule Gelsenkirchen

Prof. Dr. Gerd Bosbach, Hochschule Koblenz

Achim Brandt, Betriebsratsvorsitzender Robert Bosch Elektronik, Salzgitter

Prof. Dr. Peter Brandt, Fernuniversität Hagen

Prof. Dr. Günter Buchholz, Hochschule Hannover

Ingrid Buchwieser, Bad Oldesloe

Rainer Butenschön, Vorsitzender des Fachbereichs Medien, Kunst u. Industrie im ver.di-

Landesbezirk Niedersachsen/Bremen

Prof. Dr. Christoph Butterwegge, Universität Köln

Peter Conradi, Stuttgart, von 1972 bis 1998 MdB für die SPD

Michele Dattaro, 1. Bevollmächtigter IG Metall Velbert

Dr. Diether Dehm, Geschäftsführer Edition Musikant, Eiterfeld

Jochen Ebel, Dipl.-Physiker, Borgheide

Prof. Dr. Wolfram Elsner, Universität Bremen

Prof. Dr. Tim Engartner, Universität Frankfurt a.M.

Julia Eppstein, Düsseldorf

Prof. Dr. Gottfried Erb, Hungen

Prof. Dr. Trevor Evans, Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Recht, Berlin

Tanja Flanhardt, Gewerkschaftssekretärin FB Handel Schwerin

Uwe Foullong, ver.di Düsseldorf

Prof. Dr. Franz Fujara, TU-Darmstadt

Richard Funke, Köln

OLtzS Dr. Philipp Gabsch, Rostock

Prof. Dr. Berthold Gasch, Lauenburg/Elbe


Thomas Gesterkamp, Autor und Publizist, Köln

Prof. Dr. Eberhard von Goldammer, Witten

Prof. Dr. Werner Goldschmidt, Universität Hamburg

Prof. Dr. Ernst Gotschling, Berlin

Prof. Dr. Hanna Grabley, Bad Saarow

Mathias Greffrath, Schriftsteller und Journalist

Prof. Dr. Peter Grottian, Freie Universität Berlin

Prof. Dr. Ingrid Haller, Frankfurt a.M.

Alfred Hartung, Wolfsburg,

Prof. Dr. Fritz Helmedag, Technische Universität Chemnitz

Prof. Dr. Friedhelm Hengsbach, SJ, Ludwigshafen

Prof. Dr. Peter Hennicke, Wuppertal

Prof. Dr. Rudolf Hickel, Universität Bremen

Mathias Hillbrandt, 1. Bevollmächtiger IG Metall Witten

Dr. Stefan Hochstadt, Dortmund, Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter Piraten-Fraktion Landtag


Georg Hupfauer, Vorsitzender der KAB Deutschlands und Mitglied im Hauptausschuss des

Zentralkomitees der Deutschen Katholiken (ZDK)

Prof. Dr. Klaus Jacob, Berlin

Prof. Dr. Johannes Jäger, Fachhochschule bfi Wien

Prof. Dr. Kerstin Jürgens, Universität Kassel

Anette Jung, Dipl-Ing., Herne

Prof. Dr. Anastasios Karasavvoglou, Kavala Institute of Technology, Greece

Prof. Dr. Siegfried Katterle, Universität Bielefeld

Katja Kipping, MdB und Vorsitzende der Partei DIE LINKE

Prof. Dr. Klaus Peter Kisker, Freie Universität Berlin

Rainer Knirsch, ehrenamtl. Bildungsreferent, IG Metall

Prof. Dr. Bernd Koenitz, Leipzig

Otto König, ehem. 1. Bevollmächtigter IG Metall Gevelsberg-Hattingen

Dr. Michael Kopatz, Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie GmbH

Prof. Dr. Thomas Korenke, Westfälische Hochschule Gelsenkirchen

Martin Krämer, Gewerkschaftssekretär IG Metall, Frankfurt a.M.


Prof. h.c. Dr. Jürgen Kranz, Berlin

Daniel Kreutz, Köln

Stephan Krull, ehem. Betriebsrat VW-Wolfsburg

Prof. Dr. Berthold Kühn, Dresden

Prof. Dr. Ekkehard Lieberam, Leipzig

Rainer Linxweiler, Betriebsratsvorsitzender, Druck- u. Verlagszentrum Hagen

Prof. Dr. Gerhard Löhlein, Frankfurt a.M.

Prof. Dr. Birgit Mahnkopf, Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Recht Berlin

Prof. Dr. Harald Mattfeldt, Universität Hamburg

Rainer Matz, 1. Bevollmächtigter IG Metall Recklinghausen

Jochen Marquardt, Regionsgeschäftsführer DGB Ruhr-Mark

Roland Meya, Betriebsratsvorsitzender Ontex Recklinghausen GmbH

Prof. Günther Moewes, Dortmund

Prof. Dr. Mohssen Massarrat, Universität Osnabrück

Prof. Dr. Klaus Müller, Erlbach-Kirchberg

Prof. Dr. Oskar Negt, Universität Hannover

Gisela Notz, Journalistin und Frauenrechtlerin

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Nowak, Alice Salomon Hochschule Berlin

Prof. Dr. Erich Ott, Hochschule Fulda

Prof. Dr. Karl Otto, Universität Bielefeld

Dr. Joachim Paul, Fraktionsvorsitzender der PIRATEN, Landtag NRW

Peter Rath-Sangkhakorn, Publizist und Verleger, Bergkamen

Manfred Sautter, Saarbrücken

Prof. Dr. Werner Ross, Zwickau

Sabine Ruwwe, Dipl. Geologin, Wiesbaden

Robert Sadowsky, 1. Bevollmächtiger IG Metall Gelsenkirchen

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Saggau, Bielefeld

Prof. Dr. Hajo Schmidt, Fernuniversität Hagen

Jutta Schneider, ehem. Betriebsratsvorsitzende Gillette Berlin

Peter Schnell, Offenbach

Prof. Dr. Mechthild Schrooten, Hochschule Bremen

Prof. Dr. Susanne Schunter-Kleemann, Hochschule Bremen


Prof. Dietmar Seeck, Hochschule Emden-Leer

Prof. Dr. Franz Segbers, Universität Marburg

Prof. Dr. Sorg, Hamburg

Joachim Spangenberg, Sprecher des BUND, AK Wirtschaft- und Finanzpolitik

Eckart Spoo, Mitherausgeber der Zeitschrift Ossietzky

Prof. Dr. Klaus Steinitz, Berlin

Margareta Steinrücke, Soziologin, Arbeitszeitforscherin

Prof. Dr. Brigitte Stolz-Willig, Fachhochschule Frankfurt a.M.

Prof. Dr. Joachim Tesch, Leipzig

Prof. Dr. Günter Thiele, Alice Salomon Hochschule Berlin

Karl-Heinz Thier, Hamburg

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Triebel, Berlin

Dr. Axel Troost, MdB, Stellvertretender Vorsitzender der Partei DIE LINKE und Finanzpolitischer

Sprecher der Bundestagsfraktion

Prof. Dr. Fritz Vilmar, Freie Universität Berlin

Sahra Wagenknecht, MdB, Erste Stellvertretende Vorsitzende der Fraktion DIE LINKE

Prof. Dr. Ingo Wagner, Leipzig

Gisela Walk, Dipl.-Psychologin, Hamburg

Ralf Woelk, Vorsitzender DGB-Region NRW Süd-West

Dr. Winfried Wolf, Chefredakteur Luna Park

Dr. Hartmut Wolf, Frankfurt a.M.

Prof. Dr. Norbert Zdrowomyslaw, Fachhochschule Stralsund

Prof. Dr. Achim Zielesny, Westfälische Hochschule Gelsenkirchen

Prof. Dr. Karl Georg Zinn, RWTH Aachen


Prof. Dr. Heinz-J. Bontrup (Tel. 0160/94479984)

Prof. Dr. Mohssen Massarrat (Tel. 0176/96746309)


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