The four-day working week is ‘something we will have to strongly look at’ as a country, Labour leader Alan Kelly has told The Hard Shoulder.
The Tipperary TD was speaking after his party’s two-day think-in in Athy County Kildare this week.
He said the COVID pandemic has “changed everything” and insisted his party was committed to putting forward positive proposals for moving the country forward – rather than engaging in tit-for-that politics with other parties.
“I think we are going to have to change our attitudes towards work,” he said.
“I think COVID has changed everything – absolutely everything. I know it has changed my priorities and how I look at things. My work-life balance and the time I spend with my children – I simply can’t go back to the way it was before. I have a nine-year-old and an 11-year-old and I am just going to have to get the balance right into the future, so everything is up for discussion in a positive way.
“Many people dismiss the idea of a four-day week but my colleague Kevin Donoghue has proposed in Dublin City Council that it be looked at. I think this is something we will have to strongly look at.
“We are going to have to look at the way work is done and also, it is a different environment now with blended work and working from home and the whole conditioning around that – protecting workers as part of it as well.
“So, I think everything is up for discussion as regards the working environment – in a good way.”
He said addressing the always-on culture of work in Ireland is “very, very high on the agenda.”
“At the end of the day, it is there in the name,” he said. “We are the Labour Party and our primary job in life is to represent workers and people who want to work and make sure that work pays and that people who go out and do an honest day’s work can get a good wage.
“It is very, very important from the background I come from that if you go out and make your contribution that you shouldn’t have to worry about back-to-school costs. You should be able to take your family on a small holiday or buy a pizza at the weekend or go out to the cinema with your kids.
“Work should pay and people should be respected in the environment in which they work and that is absolutely core to the changes we will try to make in the next three years.”
Deputy Kelly also called for childcare in Ireland to be nationalised along with the health system.
“Some people will scoff at the idea of nationalising hospitals or looking at childcare – but it is what we need,” he said. “I am sick of short-termism.”
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