German steelworkers demand the right to take two years' worth of "work-life balance" 28-hour work weeks to look after children or aging parents

Large German companies are required to give board-seats to representatives from their workers' unions, which makes the companies both more profitable and more equitable, so it's unusual for German workers to go out on strike, but 15,000 members of IG Metall union, the country's largest trade union, are engaged in short-term "warning strikes" against 80 companies for the right to take up to two years' worth of 28-hour working weeks, a kind of "work-life-balance" leave that has evolved out of the country's existing parental leave, but would allow workers to take extra time to care for aging relatives.

With unemployment at record lows and 1.1 million jobs open across the country, the workers have real bargaining power and they're not afraid to use it.

Under the union proposals, workers who opt for a 28-hour week in order to take care of young children or ageing parents would get an additional allowance of €200 per month. Those who want to take a break from doing shift work with a high health risk would be compensated with €750 per year.

With the German economy in robust health and unemployment at record lows, IG Metall is also calling for a 6% pay increase across the sector.

“We want employers to recognise that traditional gender roles in modern families are changing, and we want workers to have the chance to do work that is important to society,” a union spokesperson said. “In the past, demands for more flexibility has come at the cost of workers. We want to flick a switch so that flexible working also benefits workers.”

German workers strike for right to two-year, 28-hour working week [Philip Oltermann/The Guardian]

(via Naked Capitalism)