Cracker by Damian Christie

That time of the year again...

Hands up everybody who wants an extra week's holiday! Yeah exactly, me too. Imagine that, four weeks every year sitting around doing sweet F.A; Hanging around the beach, getting unproductively good at Playstation, taking a short course in Ceroc dancing, pottery, terrapin raising, whatever spins your wheels.

The debate's on, as PCP MP Matt Robson is pushing the Government to tack on an extra 5 days to our existing three week's annual leave. The Labour Party are committed to the idea in theory, but say the timing's not right yet. It doesn't help Robson's chances any that Labour have promised Business that the timing's not going to be right for this term at least.

Business, in particular the Employers' & Manufacturers' Association aren't too happy about the idea of 4 weeks' holiday saying they've had enough new costs to deal with lately, not the least of which was Laila Harre's brainchild [sic], the Paid Parental Leave Bill. Without needing to string together words like turkeys, Christmas, voting and early, it's not hard to see that they were never likely to be enthusiastic at Robson's proposal.

Last week on the Thursday Wire (12-2pm 95bFM) I spoke to Robson as well as Alasdair Thompson of the EMA. Whilst Thompson's responses were fairly predictable, $1b cost to the economy, not the right time now, we'll agree to it later - honest; the real surprise was the paucity of convincing arguments coming from the red corner. Apparently we need four weeks' holiday for, inter alia, the following reasons:

(a) Some other counties have 4 weeks' holiday, although many don't;

(b) Because people spend money when they are on holiday, it would actually be GOOD for economy;

(c) If we had a fourth week, we'd use it for things that were good for us, like going to the doctor and the dentist.

(d) Lots of people already get four weeks' holiday, it's not fair on everyone else.

Point (a) aside - because when was the last time we did something just because another country did (oh that's right, Afghanistan...) - there's not a lot of weight behind Robson's arguments. When was the last time you went on holiday, only to come back and bemoan the fact that you didn't have enough time to spend all your holiday money or go to the dentist? Besides, aren't dentist visits a really good excuse for an afternoon off work every now and then?

And if we don't have enough time to spend our holiday money, what are we doing with it? We're forever being told we're not a nation of savers, so it's obviously being spent somewhere, just not on socially necessary holiday industries such as tickets to MOTAT and candy floss.

So a lot of people are getting four weeks' holiday. A lot of people are getting a lot of things, and a lot of people are missing out. My friends in the record business get 4WDs to drive around; I get Thursday afternoons off to do my show and my mate Ben gets to photoshop pictures of models in bikinis all day - every job has its perks. A playing field that's levelled off won't stay level any longer than it takes those with bargaining clout to renegotiate their contracts.

Okay, but then at least everyone gets four weeks' holiday, right? Sure, Apart from the self-employed of course. And those with more than one job, or people on casual contracts, or people whose job it is to look after their kids.

My point is this. There's nothing intrinsically better about 4 weeks' holiday, at least not on any research I've been shown. And it ain't free, although you'd never know given the 93% of people who think an extra weeks' holiday is a winner of an idea.

If employers have an extra cost imposed on them, you can be damn sure it's going to come out somewhere else. Or did you really think the shareholders and directors were going to just throw up their hands and say "Oh well, there goes the profit for this year"?

How will an extra weeks' holiday manifest itself in terms of cost? Lower wages, or at least less increases to wages over time? Everyone else in the office having to work harder while someone takes their month off (6 weeks including stats)? Higher costs to consumers for goods, who in the end are all workers too, so it's basically the same as lower wages? How much are you willing to pay for that extra week?

Something to think about when you're lying on the beach anyway. The holidays are just around the corner - see you at Ceroc...