It's hard to argue with the premise that good physical and mental health enables creativity and higher production on the job. But the cost and value of the benefits that promote good health will likely remain contentious for many generations to come on both sides of the pond.
In the most startling labor headline of the week , The New York Times reported today that "... Europe's highest court ruled that workers who happened to get sick on [their paid four to six week guaranteed] vacation were legally entitled to take another vacation." The Court of Justice ruling which "... applies across the European Union of 27 countries ... had previously ruled that a person who gets sick before going on vacation is entitled to reschedule the vacation, and on Thursday it said that right extended into the vacation itself." The very thought of administering and validating this new ruling gives me a headache. And if I lived and worked in the E.U., I'd be sorely tempted to think about it again while on vacation.
Here in the U.S., labor unions like the 1.4 million member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees can only fantasize about such benefits as they elect a new leader and focus on improving their image among voters and lawmakers whom the The Times, in a separate article, claims "have become increasingly unsympathetic to public sector workers." And since this is a Friday Rant, check out the photos in the AFSCME Times article and observe the hugely overweight sampling of "nearly 3,000 delegates from the nation's largest union of state and local government employees." If the new AFSCME president sincerely wants to help his members have better lives, weight loss and exercise programs would be a novel initiative -- to say nothing of the impact it would have upon healthcare costs. Clearly, this union is not hungry -- at least not by the looks of its members.
Perhaps U.S. Labor Unions and European Union workers should get together. U.S. workers could learn to be more diet savvy and active -- thereby enhancing the quality of their time off -- and European workers could learn about making benefit concessions to help boost their crisis economy (or maybe soon we'll say "economies"). And better yet, while we're at it, what about giving the public sector a better opportunity to make core "make" vs. "buy" decisions when it comes to opting to hire workers or purchase outcomes -- either from unions, firms or even collective sets of free agents.