Call to scap holiday causes rumpus in Germany

Nov 05 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

The German government has caused consternation by announcing that it wants to scrap the national "Unity" public holiday, which commemorates the reunification of Germany into a single state in 1990, in an effort to boost its flagging economy.

Economics minister, Wolfgang Clement, who last year said that Germans take too many holidays and should increase their working hours, said the Oct 3 holiday would be moved to the nearest Sunday in October.

The extra day worked, he argued, would boost the economy next year by around 0.1 per cent.

Once renowned for hard work, Germany has the largest number of bank holidays and one of the shortest average working weeks in the EU. Workers have an average of 43 days off a year. Thirteen of these days are public holidays, with some regions, such as Bavaria, having up to 17 holidays.

But with spiralling unemployment, stagnant economic growth, a E10 billion budget deficit and cheaper, harder-working EU accession states on its doorstep, the German government has been forced to take drastic measures.

The decision is part of a consolidation package, including a pay freeze for civil servants and the transfer of the pension liabilities of Deutsche Telekom and Deutsche Post, designed to get the economy back on track.

Germany's powerful trade unions were contemptuous of the move. A statement from the Trade Union Federation said: "Poor Germany, to think that we cannot even afford a public holiday recalling one of the most important events of our history."