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If you lower the salary, it is not a four-day work week, it is a reduction in the working day: the controversy over the cuts that faces companies and unions

The four-day workweek is becoming louder in our country. Different parties and governments, such as that of the Valencian Community, want to promote it, the unions claim it as a measure to improve the conditions of workers and several companies, such as Telefónica or Desigual, have announced that they are going to test it with part of their workforce . However, the concept of this reduced shift seems not yet entirely clear, and some companies would be taking advantage of it to sell as a four-day work week something that, in reality, is a cut in the working conditions of their employees.

And it is that, according to the different academic and union sources consulted by Xataka, If the reduction of the working day implies a cut in the salary, it is not possible to speak of a four-day work week, but of a mere reduction of the working day, an adjustment mechanism that companies can use for a long time, which is included in the Workers’ Statute and which implies a deterioration of the living conditions of employees, who see their purchasing power cut back.

Although this reduction is not 20% of the salary, that is, the proportional part of the day that is worked less, as is the case with Telefónica and Desigual, which reached an agreement with their employees so that the cut would be only 7% and 6%, respectively. Experts make it clear: with any pay cut, even minimal, it cannot be considered a four-day workweek.

“If there is a reduction in salaries, we would be talking about a substantial modification of working conditions, which would be a mechanism for internal flexibility in the company, but it cannot be called a four-day work week, it would have nothing to do with the concept of reducing the working day”, Explains José Manuel Gómez, professor of Labor and Social Security Law at the University of Seville.

Jon Bernat Zubiri, professor of Labor Relations at the University of the Basque Country and expert on the four-day work week, expresses himself in similar terms: “Lowering the salary for working less is a regression measure. You cannot sell that you have implemented a four-day work week if you attack the pocket of the workers ”.

Thus, both experts and unions understand that the four-day work week, conceptually, It is a social advance similar to the introduction of the eight-hour day more than 100 years ago, so everything that involves earning less money undermines its reason for being. And, in fact, the General Union of Workers (UGT) considers that it may even be counterproductive: “If the reduction of the working week implies a wage cut, the measure loses all its potential, to the extent that the employment generated it would be precarious, “they explain in their study for a 32-hour workweek.

The employer, for its part, has not wanted to comment on the matter. From the Spanish Confederation of Business Organizations (CEOE) they have told Xataka that hUntil the issue is really on the table, they will not evaluate it..

The four-day work week in Spain

In this way, once we are more clear about what a four-day or 32-hour workweek is, a fundamental question arises, Is Spain prepared for a change of this nature? Here the experts have somewhat different opinions.

“Taking into account the evolution of productivity and real wages in recent decades, a reduction in working hours is more than justified that does not imply a salary reduction and that, in addition, is economically viable in the Spanish case”, Says Verónica Castrillón, professor of Applied Economics at the University of the Basque Country.

A statement that José Luis Cendejas, researcher at the Institute of Economic Studies of the Francisco de Vitoria University does not agree with: “For a company to accept this, it must be in a position to be able to offer it for its benefits, its financial situation and for your productivity, so you don’t lose out, and that, In the current situation we find ourselves in, I see it very difficult, although in some very specific sectors it can get ahead ”.

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From the Valencian Community, the first region in Spain that is going to enhance the four-day work week through a business subsidy plan, they believe that the key is in the reorganization of the activity of the companies: if technology and new management tools and strategies are applied, it is possible to produce the same thing in less time, so that working time could be reduced without the companies accusing the change in their balance sheets.

“Empirically We know that working fewer hours makes you more productive, but perhaps not enough to make up for one less day of workThat is why we are also talking about an improvement in the organization of companies ”, says Enric Nomdedéu, Secretary of Employment of the Generalitat of Valencia and main promoter of the plan.

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These companies are already testing it

In Spain there are several companies that are already testing this reduced working day. Two of them, Telefónica and Desigual, with a salary reduction, so, as we have seen, would not meet the definition of a four-day workweek. And, in fact, Magnet’s colleagues reported that many of the Spanish telco workers had refused to take advantage of this measure, precisely because they did not want to see their salaries cut.

Other companies are applying the four-day workweek as defined by the experts. One of them, Software del Sol, has been working on this reduced shift for two years without touching the salary of the employees, and They assure that their productivity has increased and that in this time they have grown by 20%, despite the coronavirus pandemic. Another, Good Rebels, started a pilot test in July to see how they were doing.

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The 4suma! Association, for its part, is testing the four-day workweek in the hospitality sector without reducing salaries, and They also point out that their productivity has increased.

In any case, both the experts and the promoters of these plans in the public and private sectors emphasize that there cannot be a single four-day or 32-hour workweek model. Each sector and each company has different dynamics and needs, so if they want to apply this reduced working day, they will have to study the best way to do it to be just as productive in less time.