European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Austria

8 January 2018

Austria: Incoming government extents the working day

The incoming Austrian coalition government of conservatives and populists has announced plans to increase the daily working time from 10 to 12 hours and to increase the maximum working week from 50 to 60 hours. The trade union confederation ÖGB stresses that the current restrictions of the working day are meant to protect workers from excessive working hours. The union refers to a study that provides evidence of the negative effects of working too long.

Austria has a new government of Christian democrats and populists that was sworn in amid protests against the far right’s prominent role in the cabinet. The coalition treaty agreed by the two parties vows to restrict illegal immigration and speed up deportation of refused asylum seekers. It has also announced labour reforms that have been labelled by the unions as being ‘business-friendly' The commitment is to relax the current restrictions around working hours. Flexibilization of labour law will see workers having to work up to 12 hours a day in what the parties say is a ‘win-win’ for employees and employers. The two parties plan to increase the maximum working day from 10 to 12 hours and the maximum working week from 50 to 60 hours, with the argument that ‘International comparisons show that the more progressive the location, the more flexible the working arrangements’.

 

Trade unions have criticised the government’s plans to abolish the existing restrictions around working hours. Trade union confederation ÖGB is very clear in its position; the restrictions on daily and weekly working time are a crucial part of the occupational health and safety. The unions refer to a study that provides evidence of the negative effects of working too long. The research assessed the recovery of nurses from two consecutive 12-hours day shifts and concluded that adequate recovery opportunities are crucial for preventing long-term health effects of acute load reactions in response to stressful work. The results suggest that at least three rest days are necessary for full recovery after two consecutive 12-hours day shifts. Adequate time for recovery enables nurses to maintain caring attitudes with patients, thus contributing to patient safety. Besides, longer working days are not very effective because the fatigue has a negative effect on productivity and output. 

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