Scotland politics

Scottish Labour calls for a 48-hour working week limit

Hospital ward Image copyright PA
Image caption NHS workers in particular would benefit from a limit to the working week, Scottish Labour believes

A call to limit the working week to 48 hours is among proposals in Scottish Labour's new industrial strategy.

The party is urging the UK and Scottish governments to consider implementing the policy.

The Scottish government said Labour would do better to reverse its view that the UK should leave the EU's single market and the customs union.

And the Scottish Conservatives said no one had the right to "dictate" how long people should work.

Scottish Labour's strategy argues that powers over employment and health-and-safety laws which are repatriated after Brexit could be used to reverse the UK's opt-out of the EU working time directive limiting the working week to 48 hours.

It argues that the move would help to boost productivity and benefit NHS workers in particular.

Speaking on a visit to Leonardo Airborne and Space Systems in Edinburgh, economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: "There are opportunities that come from Brexit, that is the return of certain regulations and powers to the UK.

"We would like to see, in the context of the economy changing anyway - automation is a thing, flexible working is increasing - we want to make sure that we get a good work-life balance for people but we also address the needs of the economy, and with automation the nature of work will change.

"We need to embrace that change, so we want to open a dialogue with businesses to talk about opportunities that Brexit will provide and the EU working time directive is one of them."

Labour said adopting the measures contained in the strategy could boost gross domestic product (GDP) by almost £45bn.

It's plan includes;

  • more investment in computer coding and science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects
  • strengthening the Scottish Investment Bank
  • dedicated ministers for innovation and cities
  • a new UK regional policy to replace that of the EU after Brexit
  • a "real living wage" of £10-an-hour
  • and a ban on zero-hour contracts

The strategy also calls for a commitment to full employment with a focus on the "jobs of the future" in industries such as decommissioning, renewables and financial technology.

Further measures include ensuring that public procurement does not reward companies and organisations that engage in practices such as blacklisting or zero-hours contracts, and an expansion of the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service.

'Labour playing catch up'

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said it was important to "inspire a new generation of world-leading scientists and innovators to give our country the skills we all need to succeed".

Responding to Labour's plan, SNP MSP Ivan McKee pointed out that Scotland's economy "has just posted growth figures four times the UK level while unemployment is at record low levels".

He added: "The SNP will work with anyone to support growth in our economy, better jobs and new opportunities but on STEM, financial technology, a modern manufacturing sector and the importance of regional investment, Labour are simply playing catch up.

"The biggest contribution Labour could make would be to end their ridiculous support for the Tories' policy of dragging Scotland and the UK out of the single market and the customs union which would be disastrous for jobs, investment and living standards."

Dean Lockhart from the Scottish Tories said no one should be forced into a long working week "if they don't want to or simply can't".

He added: "However, many people - particularly those running their own businesses - do want to, and will be appalled at the idea of Labour trying to tell them what to do.

"In addition, others may need the cash working those hours brings, for a variety of reasons.

"Labour simply do not have the right to dictate to those people what hours they should and shouldn't be working. These restrictions have been tried elsewhere, and they've been shown to damage the economy."

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