Long Weekend: An Idea Whose Time May Not Have Come

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli Minister of Economy and Industry Eli Cohen. (Flash90)

The proposal for a long weekend in Israel, which looked like it was finally going to happen after years of discussion, was again stalled, according to sources quoted by The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

A bill calling for a tryout of six long weekends a year has encountered formidable opposition from both industry and labor, according to sources close to Economy Minister Eli Cohen.

The three-day weekends – Friday, Shabbos, Sunday – were to begin by the end of 2017.

But Manufacturers Association of Israel President Shraga Brosh and Histadrut Labor Federation chief Avi Nissenkorn are reportedly blocking the bill sponsored by Cohen, and have advanced schemes of their own for reducing the number of hours for workers.

Brosh warned of economic damage, which he estimated at as much as NIS 8 billion a year, or 1 percent of GDP.

Instead, Brosh supports an alternative proposal by Nissenkorn to shorten every work week by one hour, from 43 to 42.

“The deal to shorten the work week by an hour improves the lives of the workers, with proper balance between work and leisure,” Brosh told the Public Broadcasting Corporation, Kan.

The Bank of Israel,the Education Ministry and the National Economic Council have all lined up against long weekends.

Cohen says he hasn’t given up, though, despite the forces arrayed against him.

“Moving to a long weekend will dramatically change the characteristics of labor,” Cohen said. “It has many benefits, including reducing exhaustion of workers, improving the balance between work and family life, improving quality of life, contributing to economic branches like trade and tourism, and synchronizing vacation days between schoolchildren and their parents.”