The SPD rejects the FDP’s demand to abolish the eight-hour day

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Written By Maya Cantina

Berlin. The SPD has agreed to make the working hours law more flexible, but has rejected coalition partner FDP’s demand to abolish the eight-hour day. The Greens warned against overburdening employees.

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“It is important that we as legislators provide a framework, especially for areas with physical work or shift work,” SPD deputy faction leader Verena Hubertz told the Editorial Network Germany (RND). “This also includes the principle of the eight-hour day, as agreed in the coalition agreement.” Yet it makes sense to reform the Working Hours Act. “Flexible working is already a reality for many people in companies and it is good to further develop the Working Hours Act.” Collective and corporate agreements are crucial here. In addition, a distinction must be made between office work and shift work.

The Greens warned that making working hours more flexible should not lead to overburdening of employees. “Protecting employees from excessive working hours is crucial for an attractive business location,” deputy parliamentary group leader Andreas Audretsch told RND. “The Working Hours Act provides the framework; we will not weaken the law to the detriment of workers.”

Minimum wage and overtime

SPD faction leader Katja Mast emphasized that paying overtime and increasing the minimum wage are more important than making working time rules more flexible. “Abstract working time debates don’t help anyone,” Mast told RND. “We first talk specifically about the workload and working conditions of the nurse, the forklift driver and the people who work thousands of hours of overtime without seeing a single cent in return.” The issue of the minimum wage is also a priority: “For us, a higher minimum wage is an absolute priority. And this one will come.”

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The minimum wage is currently 12.41 euros per hour and is expected to rise to 12.82 euros in January 2025. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has spoken out in favor of an increase to 15 euros. The minimum wage is set by a committee consisting of trade union members and employers.

In the RND interview, FDP faction deputy Lukas Köhler called for the abolition of the legal limit on maximum daily working hours and the establishment of only a maximum weekly working time. Initially, this could be implemented in sectors with strong collective bargaining, such as the chemical or postal sectors. Köhler also advocated making the rules for breaks and rest times more flexible. The current rule is that there must be a break of at least eleven hours between two work assignments.

In the coalition agreement, the SPD, the Greens and the FDP agreed to create so-called experimental spaces. Deviations from the current maximum daily working hours can then be recorded in individual collective labor agreements or company agreements. In principle, according to the coalition agreement, the eight-hour day must be retained.

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