Friday, 18 July 2008

Holidays for Construction Workers--and a Whole Lot of Other People--in Quebec.

Workers all over Quebec will down tools at noon today—not in protest but for pleasure. The “Construction Holiday” begins then and will run until Monday August 4. The two week period began as a mandated halt for the building trades in 1971, but many other industries also shut down to avoid conflict within families. In all about quarter of the work force will be off.

Anyone who works in Quebec has two per cent of his or her pay deducted every pay period, to be matched by a similar contribution from the employer. This has to be paid out once a year, creating the equivalent of a two week’s pay, but you can collect anytime, including if you quit your job.
This always reminds me of one of my favourite Henri Cartier-Bresson photos. Called "On the Banks of the Marne," it was taken in 1938, two years after the French government mandated a somewhat similar universal holiday period. One of the reasons for the program was to spread work around during the tough economic times of the 1930s, but obviously holidays meet deep needs.

But don’t expect to find all construction work stopped in Quebec. Road construction continues since it has to be done during good weather. Those sites shut down in the dead of winter.

What a climate!

Photo: Afterimage Gallery

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