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Back to the 40s?

Bosch, Siemens, Daimler Chrysler and the Federal Civil Servants are back to the 40 h working week. Many other companies are following.

A number of companies have jumped to the 40h week using strong-arm negotiation pressure, trading job security for longer working weeks without extra pay. Dieter Hundt, President of the German employer's Association (BDA) said: We must achieve more and work longer if we want to remain prosperous and retain our culture of social protection.

The collective bargaining specialists of the metal trade union (IG Metall) have few ideas for counter action. Daimler Chrysler employees at Sindelfingen protested and went on strike, but ended the strike soon after the company's assurance to guarantee the Sindelfingen jobs until 2012. The Social Democratic German government welcomed the deal as a victory of common sense.

The weekly working hours have changed dramatically since the early days of the Federal Republic when the prewar 48 h week (6 days) was usual.

Starting in 1955 the 40 h week, with only 5 work days per week, was gradually introduced. In 1984 the trade unions began demonstrating and going on strike for the 35 h week and succeeded in major industries. At present the pendulum seems to swing back to the 40h-week and, there are even several calls for the 42 h working week.

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