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THE suggestion by Michael Soden, former chief executive of Bank of Ireland, that the working week should be extended to 5.5 days for a time-limited period and for no additional compensation is intriguing.
It is especially so when the purpose of the suggestion is to fund the €50bn required from taxpayers to bail out banks. Soden’s hypothesis is that this initiative would demonstrate to the ruthless men in red braces, who lead opinion in the global financial markets, that Ireland is on course to its economic salvation by increasing national productivity in a linear mode by 10%.
This landmark development could presumably be spun to the public with a new suite of meaningless business clichés around the theme of “virtue, patriotism and recovery”. One of many difficulties with this absurd suggestion is the immutability of the human circadian rhythm – the biological cycle that recurs every 24 hours and the consequences of fatigue and reduce performance. These factors lead to a much higher risk of accidents, claims for compensation, absences due to sickness and impairment and claims for welfare based on disability payments.
Health and safety guidelines and the European working time directive could also prove to be speed bumps on the road to the utopian increase in productivity. The implications of higher taxation, negative equity and rampant unemployment might also dampen enthusiasm. All of us ought to be able to think outside the nappy – just like a banker. Perhaps we should consider extending the calendar week to nine days and work 8.5 of these so as to increase national productivity by 28%.
Then, the men in red braces could be really delirious, disarmed, even overwhelmed in their admiration for Ireland’s capacity to do anything that will make its bankers rich, proud, bonus-driven and imperialistic once again – even if bond spreads fail to narrow or interest on foreign Irish borrowing continues to be stubbornly high.
But, on the other hand, maybe we might just park this suggestion in a darkened bank vault, safe from tiger kidnap to allow it mature rather than risking a half-hearted response from a bewildered, put-upon proletariat.
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