4-day work week proposed by P.E.I. Green Party
Pandemic has made Islanders rethink the way they work, says premier
The Green Party has introduced a motion in the P.E.I. Legislature to make a four-day work week the standard on P.E.I.
The motion calls for the government to explore the feasibility of the civil service adopting a four-day work week. It does not specify whether this would mean a change in the total number of hours worked in a week.
Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said Tuesday evening the change has the potential to save everyone money, from companies that could save on heating and lighting one day a week, to employees who could save on commuting and eating out while at work.
It could save the province money as well, he said. Along with measures such as active transportation routes and improved public transit it could lower the peak capacity requirements of the road network.
"We may discover that the current capacity of our roads is perfectly adequate for many years or decades to come, and that the huge expenses associated with that ever-expanding car-related infrastructure can now be shifted to something else," said Bevan-Baker.
Extended service to public still possible
Green MLA Hannah Bell said a government initiative to change the work week would be more effective than trying to negotiate with different members of the private sector.
"Mandating a change for all workers levels the playing field in a more meaningful way than any flexible work arrangement," said Bell.
Bell noted staggering work weeks can still allow for providing five or even six days a week of service for the public. It could also potentially reduce child-care requirements for families, down to as little as three days a week in a two-parent family.
New ways of thinking
Premier Dennis King said he was happy to see this discussion, and said his support for more flexible working conditions go back to his days working in the private sector.
"I used to say, you pay me to be productive and to do good work. Why do you care where I do it or how I do it or when I do it?" said King.
"I really do think that we're at the point where we're mature enough as a society to have these discussions."
The pandemic, and all the changes it has brought, has made people more open to considering new ways of doing things, he said.
"In early February I asked the public service how we could devise a plan to get to 30 per cent work from home to assist with greenhouse gas emission reduction and was told unceremoniously that that could never happen, that it was impossible," said King.
"Eight weeks later, 95 per cent of the labour force for the provincial government was working from home."
Not everyone supported the motion. Finance Minister Darlene Compton said she was not convinced the plan would work for all Islanders.
More from CBC P.E.I.
- A previous version of this story stated total work hours for the week would be unchanged. In fact, the motion is not specific on this question.Jun 24, 2020 2:16 PM AT
With files from Nicole Williams