More holidays appeal falls on deaf ears at WKO

A works council chief has caused a stir by calling for more vacation days for Austrians.Wolfgang Katzian, head of the labour union of private employees GPA-djp, said today (Tues) Austrians deserved an additional week off each year. The Social Democratic (SPÖ) member of the federal parliament argued such a move would mean a win-win situation for companies as staff will be able to work longer as they had better chances to stay fit and healthy with more granted vacation.The GPA-djp boss claimed this measure could tackle the growing problem of burn-out and might help the government coalition of SPÖ and the People’s Party (ÖVP) in its ambition to increase the pension age.Surveys have shown that Austrian men retire at an average age of 58.9 years while the pension age is 65 by law. Women stop at the age of 57.5 years instead of 60. These developments mean that the costs for old-age care and healthcare will jump in the coming years as Austrians’ life expectancy rises at the same time.Experts called Katzian’s suggestion a debatable claim. They said there was no prove that an extra five days off meant better health, while Economy Chamber (WKO) President Christoph Leitl dismissed the idea. Leitl said Austria was already among the European countries with the most holidays. The WKO boss said Katzian’s announcement could be nothing but a “populist attempt” to win new members for the union.Austrians have a guaranteed 25 days holiday per year. While this agreement does not apply for part-time staff and freelancers, it puts Austrians who have it in their contracts ahead of countries like Ireland (25 off-days a year), Greece (23) and Slovakia (21). People in Cyprus and Estonia have the smallest number of guaranteed annual holidays among the European Union’s (EU) 27 members with 20 days each. Denmark and Germany top the list with 30 days per year each, while Italians can take 28 days off. The EU average is 24.5 days.A poll among private employees in Austria shows that a vast majority of 70 per cent would approve a change of laws in favour of a sixth week of holidays. Research group Ifes also found that only one in two staff take as many off-days as they would be allowed to due to a lack of colleagues who could cover. Employees can use up the ‘collected’ holidays in the following years, according to the law.Meanwhile, a study by pollster Karmasin shows that 86 per cent of Austrians oppose ideas to get rid of some public holidays to improve the economy’s performance. In addition to the regular 25 holidays, Austrians take off 13 national holidays a year.This number puts the country into a top position in EU comparison. Great Britain has the fewest annual public holidays with just eight such days, while Spaniards have 14.An increasing number of opinion leaders came forward in the past months to suggest some clerical feast days could be considered as regular workdays to increase the gross domestic product (GDP) in this volatile economic environment.