With skyrocketing electricity and gas prices, businesses in Lithuania are looking for ways to save money. Business associations suggest that big firms could have their employees work on weekends, when electricity is cheaper. Meanwhile, trade unions say now is the time to talk about a four-day working week.
The Lithuanian Business Confederation is calling on companies to review how they use energy resources, starting with air-conditioners or lights after working hours.
Justinas Bingelis, head of the utility networks management company Engineer, says he has been considering whether to opt for a four-day working week or shortening the working day. The company opted for the latter option and now its workers did six-hour days.
“Six hours is certainly enough to do all the work that needs to be done, so we have decided to give that time to our employees,” Bingelis said.
Working shorter weeks or hours, he says, not only saves energy, but also employees’ time. And now is the chance for companies to decide on more ambitious goals, offering employees shorter working hours or a shorter working week.
“I think the companies that will benefit are those that are the first to do so, because talented people may like to put in long hours, but in principle they would prefer to spend more time on themselves rather than on their work,” says Bingelis.
The Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists, one of the country’s biggest business associations, is rather skeptical, however. Vidmantas Janulevicius, the president of confederation, proposes instead that manufacturing companies work on weekends.
“The price of electricity drops significantly on weekends due to lower consumption, so it even makes sense for manufacturing companies to pay overtime for their workers to come in on weekends. A four-day working week would squeeze everything into four working days and the price would go up even more,” he argues.
Meanwhile, Inga Ruginiene, head of the Confederation of Trade Unions, emphasises the productivity of workers.
“Working four days, workers tend to perform better and more efficiently and create more added value,” she says.
The trade union leader says she has been advocating for the four-day working week for several years. Now that businesses are considering the need to make savings, she says, it would be time to move from talk to action.
“Even before the pandemic, we were saying that it was time to move to this working model, and not just because of the cost of savings,” says Ruginiene.
Ineta Rizgele, president of the Lithuanian Business Confederation, argues that energy savings are important in general, not only in the context of rising electricity prices, but also in the context of green policies. Business is not only ready to talk about it, but also to look for best ways to save.
“The Lithuanian Business Confederation has invited its members to review the use of energy resources, to identify places where savings could be made – we often leave air conditioning or lights on even at night,” she says.
Rizgele is still cautious about shortening the working week or working day. It should be up to individual companies, she says. (LRT/Business World Magazine)