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British workers get a tanning

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Issue 1712

what we think

British workers get a tanning

Tony Blair this week returned from the latest leg of his luxury holiday in Italy and France. But the figures for how much holiday ordinary people get are shocking. Workers in Britain get just 28 days holiday a year compared to 37 in Germany and 42 in Italy.

Those four weeks annual holiday, supposedly guaranteed by European law, are often being cut to three or even two weeks by profit-hungry employers. A report last week found that 25 percent of people do not take their full holiday entitlement because bosses pressurise them not to, or because they are so worried about the heavy workload when they get back.

The average household in Britain now works seven hours a week more than in the late 1980s. Some 57 percent of people work on Saturdays and more than 37 percent work on Sundays.

The picture is the same elsewhere in the developed world. In the US workers get an average of just 12 days paid holiday a year. This is despite workers’ productivity trebling in the last 40 years.

One in three Americans take only half-or less-of this pathetic entitlement. In Japan workers are only entitled to 17 days holiday a year, but most take just nine or ten.

This is the world of neo-liberalism and globalisation. Neo-liberalism means letting the market rip. It means privatisation and attacks on union rights. It means less full time jobs and more part time jobs.

These are the “flexible labour markets” constantly praised by New Labour. At the worst end of the spectrum the world system brings the horrors of debt, starvation and death.

That same system brings long hours and stress, and stunts the potential of workers in the West. That is why it is so important we build resistance to neo-liberalism, like the protests planned against the IMF and World Bank in Prague later this month.

  • See page five for more on Prague.

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