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30 Hour Work Week
by Alternative Economic Policy study group
Tuesday Mar 19th, 2013 7:36 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. Reducing working hours is only possible with full wage- and personnel adjustment; otherwise the wage rate falls again.


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)

marc1seed [at]

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)
30-Stunden-Woche [at]