May Day: Time to normalise a four day week

May Day is a day for workers.

It is time to normalise the four day working week, says Scottish Green MSP Maggie Chapman, who used a Members Debate on Celebrating Workers and Trade Unions on May Day to call for more employers to shift to a four day model. 

The Scottish Greens have themselves already adopted a four day working week for staff, with positive results. Better work-life balance, less stress, being better able to deal with difficult situations, and more control over their lives are just some of the benefits which staff have reported.

Ms Chapman, who was hosting the debate, also called for the expansion of the real living wage, and for all parties to support the devolution of employment law to the Scottish Parliament.

Speaking in the chamber, Ms Chapman said: “May Day has its origins in the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago, a massacre that came as part of a campaign for the 8-hour working day. And the campaign for the 8-hour working day has its modern equivalent in the campaign for a four day week. 

“Just as the wealthy who lived off the work done by others argued that 19th century workers should be forced into 12-16 hour days, so the wealthy today who live off the work done by others suggest that a 4 day week would be a catastrophe.  

“Of course we know that neither is true. Fair working hours 100 years ago were good for everyone. Fair working weeks now are, similarly, good for everyone.”

Reflecting on the need for fairer and better work conditions, and while calling for all parties to support the devolution of employment law, Ms Chapman continued: “Structures of power, elites with vested interests in the status quo, use their power and influence to keep progressive change from rising. 

“That is why we see public bodies still failing to pay the living wage to workers. Too many employers still refuse to pay their workers the real living wage, including, to my dismay, companies owned by the Scottish Government and contractors providing public services.”

“We have the shocking situation that maternity leave is unequal across sectors, and shamefully, within the public sector.”

Ms Chapman concluded her speech: “I am proud of the record of Scottish Greens in delivering positive change for workers across Scotland – through our work with the Scottish Government over the last couple of years particularly on Fair Work. 

“But we have so much more to do. We need to challenge the wealthy and elites to deliver a fair and just world. We need to turn the world upside down.”