4 days a week! New Keywords for Labor System Transformation

▲ Lee Joo-ho, Director, Policy Research Institute, Health and Medical Association

Many people talk about ‘transition of the times’. Digital Transformation, Climate Crisis Industrial Transformation.

The four-day work week system is a major transformation of the labor system itself. It contains more meaning and value than simply reducing the number by 8 hours from 5 days a week to 4 days a week. Long working hours work in tandem with low wages to support the working system of underdeveloped countries called ‘low wage long working hours’. If you try to reduce working hours in such a situation, you will run into conflict with the existing wage, welfare, and production systems. Therefore, the four-day work week system is possible when it becomes a paradigm shift that fundamentally changes the value of labor, from work-centered to people-centered, to workplace innovation.

The four-day work week has a special meaning for health care workers. Reducing the 4-day workweek is the key to providing the best medical service for a ‘long’ side to the patient ‘without dying’ for nurses and health care workers who suffer from extreme tasks such as mental, physical, emotional, and night shift work. am. There is a lot of interest in the field. One of the three core demands of the election of the health and medical union that was confirmed recently is a four-day workweek system.

In the process of organizing a general strike to solve the challenges posed by COVID-19 this year, the public health union gained public sympathy as the reality of public health and the poor working environment of health care workers were widely reported in the media. Many people were surprised by the statistics that only half of the 460,000 nurse license holders are working at the hospital, and the rate of resignation within a year after entering the hospital is 45.5%. I was surprised once again that the dream of nurses is to resign. A certain university hospital in Uijeongbu, where a nurse took her own life recently, prevented her from even resigning through a slave contract. The institutionalization of the nurse-to-patient ratio and the implementation of the pilot reorganization of the shift system included in the September 2nd Labor Union Agreement this year are two sides of the same coin with the reduction of working hours for a four-day week.

The health and medical union plans to add a four-day workweek model to the shift system pilot project, which will begin early next year, as part of the implementation of the September 2nd Labor Union Agreement as one of the five strategies for implementing a four-day work week. It plans to make it a national task for the next government through a policy agreement with the presidential candidate, and make a regional experiment model through a joint agreement ceremony for a four-day week pilot project with candidates for the heads of basic and regional organizations in local elections. In order to secure the workforce of local public hospital doctors and nurses, we will demand the implementation of the 4-day workweek system in advance, and in 2022, we will review the demand for shorter working hours and extended leave to include a four-day workweek in industry and wage and collective bargaining. In addition, we will actively fight for the abolition of the special maintenance sector system, where only five industries, including health care, remain in Article 59 of the Labor Standards Act, which mandates long hours of work.

Of course, there are many concerns and points to consider. However, that is not a reason to postpone the four-day work week, but just a homework to be solved together. The problem of supply and demand of nurses, which has always been a problem for every nursing manpower measure, has been almost resolved as the number of admissions to the nursing department more than doubled since 2008. About 25,000 people come out every year. Of these, only 10,000 new hospital workers are employed. Therefore, the government and employers should hire additional manpower through sufficient financial investment.

The problem of flexible working hours due to working hours reduction should be solved through active labor market policies, working time sovereignty, and strengthening the right to self-selection. In order to spend time outside of working hours more meaningfully, a new work culture and leisure culture should also be considered. In the process of implementing the four-day work week, the issue of increasing inequality in working hours between organized and unorganized labor should also be addressed. In addition to the application of the Labor Standards Act for workplaces with fewer than 5 employees, a minimum working time of 16 hours per week must be guaranteed for part-time workers.

Now, the debate over whether to have a four-day work week or not has no meaning anymore. It has already been started in many countries, and some companies are implementing it in Korea as well. So, I propose to start with high-risk shift workers such as health care, youth, and women.

Here and there, we have to shout, “Let’s do a four-day work week too.”


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