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New Brunswick workers could have a 4-day workweek by 2028 

Photo: Jason Richard

The NDP – both federal and provincial – has been under fire from many grassroots members throughout November. Some longstanding members on Twitter have gone as far as publicly leaving the party. 

Lack of preparedness for the BC floods has been a significant source of criticism. The pro-pipeline, military-style raids and arrests of Wet’sewet’en protesters have caught international attention and condemnation. Journalists were also arrested during the raids, which federal and provincial NDP leaders have mostly ignored

In contrast, in eastern Canada the New Brunswick NDP seem to be bucking the party’s 20-year long drift toward the center.

Mackenzie Thomason, leader of the NBNDP, recently announced new policy goals of the NBNDP to improve the lives of working-class people. This is a dual-pronged approach consists of:

  1. An annual increase of the minimum wage of $2.05 per hour, resulting in a minimum wage of $26.10/h in 2028, and
  2. A gradual reduction in hours needed to qualify for overtime, with 32.5 being considered full time, in 2028

This is essentially a 4-day work week with little or no loss in pay. This wage plan would be a huge win for New Brunswick workers, no doubt. If a party considers itself left-wing, progressive, or social-democratic, policies such as these are great examples of what should be in their arsenal. We need viable alternatives to the status quo in Canadian politics.

Many Canadians seem to agree, according to an Angus Reid poll. 53% to 64% support among those in the lowest levels of household income support the idea. Reasons for this are obvious, as a 4 day, 8 hours per day work week with no loss of pay would provide a much-needed break for many workers.

As Canada slowly recovers from the pandemic, we need a recovery focused on building workers power and countering austerity politics. Already conservative deficit hawks such as Pierre Poilievre have been screeching from the House of Commons of the need to claw back spending and social supports.

The benefits for working people are clear and simple: more free time and focus, with less work-related stress, injury and carbon footprint from commuting. The realization of this goal is not quite as simple; there will most definitely be pushback from the business community. This policy will cut into profit margins.

Not as radical as it sounds

A stable, gradual path to the 4-day work week is the most “business-friendly” approach. Remember this when the business community inevitably comes out against this pro-worker policy.

Consider how BC implemented a 15$ minimum wage. Between September 2017 and June 2021, the minimum wage was increased annually from $11.35 to $15.20 per hour. This gradual 34% increase in the minimum wage was a response to businesses’ insistence on stability. To mandate an almost $4 increase in the minimum wage directly could be too big of a hit for some businesses to handle, they claimed. By spreading out the increases in small, manageable chunks, a business has a sense of stable expectations for future costs.

For some industries, such as trades and construction experiencing worker shortages, this may be a bit more difficult. But a 4 day work week would provide a better incentive for workers to stay in those fields as less than half of trades workers make it through their training programs.

There are some smaller, secondary effects of the 32-hour workweek, that also help alleviate small business concerns. These include marginal decreases in benefits paid by employers, workers taking fewer sick/stress days, and decreased utility and operational costs.

It is also interesting to note that workers in Germany, Denmark, Norway and others already work significantly less than Canadians do. In fact, the average yearly hours worked is almost 20% less for those countries compared to Canada, while being on average more productive. Why not follow in their footsteps?

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