Darryl Walker says it might work in some offices and ministries if it was voluntary and benefits were protected.
Vancouver (9 March 2009) - The British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) is open to the idea of a four-day work week to help the province save money but it would have to be entirely voluntary.
"Certainly, if it has the capability of saving positions, of cutting back on cutbacks and layoffs, we're open to options," says BCGEU president Darryl Walker. But there are several obvious limitations, he adds.
"First of all, it would have to be a voluntary process," Walker says.
He notes that the existing BCGEU master agreement already allows employees to take time off without pay. However, the provision is seldom used — often because the government itself objects on grounds of operational requirements, he notes.
"Secondly, we would have to be assured that there would be no additional workload placed on other members that are still on the job."
For example, it would not work in an office of three people if two took time off and the third person was left alone. Also, it would be impractical to cut "storefront" offices where the public expects to walk in and get service on demand, nor would it work in the case of employees such as correctional officers or sherrifs, he notes.
Finally, members would have to be assured that benefits, vacations and pensions would be protected, he adds."It's appealing, if people think about a long weekend in the summer.... But I think you have to look at it almost ministry by ministry, and in a lot of cases, office by office."
Walker says BCGEU members have been asked to assess the issue by making use of joint union-management committees where everyone involved has a chance to "talk about where this might be applicable."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE