[EDITORIALS]5-day workweek tsunami

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[EDITORIALS]5-day workweek tsunami

An agreement by the metal workers union and its management to adopt the five-day workweek, with no cut in wages, is the latest major tsunami. This development, highly favorable to the union, can in part be blamed on negligence by legislators and the government, who have refused to work on the bill pending in the National Assembly.
It makes sense to leave the decision on adopting the five-day workweek to individual companies. In that way, some of the shock from the decision, which will have critical impact on company management structure and work environments, can be absorbed. But as we have seen in this decision and when the financial institutions went to a five-day workweek by cutting down on the number of annual holidays, bargaining on the issue is exhaustive and confusing, with each negotiation seeming to set its own rules. It is time to come to a conclusive decision.
The agreement reached by the metal workers is disturbing because it unilaterally favors unionized workers. The metal workers agreed that large companies will adopt the five-day workweek this year, and companies with 50 or fewer employees, by 2005. But that agreement differs greatly from the pending National Assembly bill, which postpones the five-day workweek for businesses with 20 or fewer employees until 2010. The bill also would cut the number of monthly and yearly holidays.
In addition, we should note that some large conglomerates and foreign companies already are implementing the five-day workweek and therefore watching the National Assembly in hopes that its legislation will not differ greatly from current law.
The National Assembly should forestall confusion by hastening to draw a social consensus. The pending bill is not without flaws, but it is a blueprint reached after long discussion by the tripartite commission of labor, management and government. Invariably, we can expect further wrangling between labor and management, but together with government, they should consider the nation’s dire economic reality in discussing and striking an agreement.

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