By on July 9, 2013



European SEAT sales showed new signs of life lately, but the vital stats of Volkswagen’s Mediterranean brand still are weak enough for doctors to recommend a lot of rest. SEAT recommends to have workers stay at home an extra day of each week, Reuters writes.

According to the wire, SEAT “wants to halt production for 16 days on one of its lines, between September and December, affecting 2,800 workers, and stop production for 35 days next year on another line, affecting 3,800 workers.”

Doing the math, that amounts to a four work day week beginning in September, after workers return from extensive and most likely extended holidays. The four work day system would then last through most of next year.

According to the wire, Seat proposed the plan to unions and the regional government in Catalonia and will hold a 15-day consultation period.

The system has a strong tradition in Europe. For 12 years, from 1994 through 2006, Volkswagen Germany worked only on four days of the week. The “Vier-Tage Woche” was invented to get VW through the lean times of the 90’s. The extra vacation went hand-in-hand with a 20 percent pay cut, and this is what Spanish unions probably will hear.

SEAT said that “the measures are aimed at guaranteeing the continuation of all staff at Seat as well as an adequate relationship between production and demand for our products in the market.” This statement also is right out of Volkswagen’s  “Vier-Tage Woche” playbook, which, all in all, worked quite well.

Of course, when business picked up later in the decade at Volkswagen, German unions did not want to give up their three-day vacations every week. Only the threat of jobs emigrating elsewhere finally brought workers back to the line on five days of the week.

What didn’t work out so well was that, in the name of justice, fairness, and equality, white-collar workers also had to observe the 4 day week. This had horrendous effects on efficiency. Workers could choose which day of the work they would not work, they inevitably picked Monday or Friday. This meant that meetings could only be scheduled from Tuesday through Thursday.  Which meant that nothing was done Monday and Friday, because half of the people weren’t at the office. And nothing was done Tuesday through Thursday, because everybody was in meetings.

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2 Comments on “A Solution To Europe’s Overcapacity: Take Monday Off. Or How About Friday?...”

  • avatar

    I suppose the question in my mind would be if the line workers had their work time and pay reduced by 20% (are European line workers salaried or hourly?) and in the interest of fairness did the white collar guys whom I would guess are salaried take a similar cut in pay or where they just given an extra day off without a cut in pay? If it was the latter then why give them an extra day off.

  • avatar

    Having spent almost 3 decades working in the offices of multinational companies, I can assure you that I (and most of my colleagues) would have found the idea of meeting-free days quite appealing, and a great boost to productivity.

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