Workers at BMW, Mercedes and Porsche can now work a 28-hour week

A BMW worker holds a banner reading

A BMW worker holds a banner reading “arguing together” during a 24-hour strike by German industrial trade union IG Metall in Berlin, Germany, February 2, 2018.
Reuters/Christian Mang

  • German metalworkers and engineers union secures deal for 28 hour work week.
  • Staff will be able to work the equivalent of five hours and 40 minutes per day for up to two years.
  • The deal is intended to allow people to care for children, the elderly or sick relatives.

LONDON – A German industrial union has won its workers the right to work just 28 hours per week in a deal that could eventually impact almost 4 million people in the country.

IG Metall, the biggest trade union in Germany for metal and engineering workers, struck the deal which will allow staff to go down from 35 hours to just 28 hours per week for as long as two years, in instances where they need to care for children, the elderly or sick relatives.

A 28-hour working week is equivalent to around five hours and 40 minutes of work for five days, down from seven hours per day. In the UK, a standard work week is 40 hours long.

“The agreement is a milestone on the way to a modern, self-determined world of work,” Jörg Hofmann, the leader of the union said.

“It was worth the effort. We have laid the foundation for a flexible working time system,” said Rainer Dugler, the head of the employers’ association for the industry.

Currently, the new deal is only for metal and electric industries in Baden-Wuerttemberg, a state in Germany’s south west, and impacts around 900,000 workers. However, it will soon be rolled out to the rest of the country’s metal and electric workers, roughly 3.9 million people.

Companies with workers represented by IG Metall include BMW, Mercedes, Airbus, and Porsche.

IG Metall’s workers will also receive a 4.3% pay rise as part of the new employment package, while some workers – if they are willing – will have their hours increased from 35 to 40.

Workers had held a one-day strike last week to try and secure the deal.

The deal represents a major breakthrough for flexible working in Europe, and comes partly in response to the rise of the so-called gig economy, where workers are able to control their own hours with much greater ease than those on full time contracts.