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‘Work less and work better, this is the principle’: Lamborghini makes history by agreeing to a 4-day workweek for its production workers


Lamborghini’s stylish sports cars have earned it fame the world over, with the likes of Beyonce and Cristiano Ronaldo among its fans. It could end up one day becoming famous for a different reason: The Italian company just became Europe's first car maker to offer a four-day workweek (although only for some of its workers).

On Tuesday, Lamborghini reached an agreement with its unions to roll out a shorter week for its production workers without slashing pay, the labor associations and company.

"Work less and work better, this is the principle that guided this negotiation, and which is part of a comprehensive reasoning," the FIOM and FIM-CSL unions that struck a deal with Lamborghini said in a statement, Reuters reported from Italy.

The agreement is a key moment for the auto industry, which recently faced a historic triple strike in the U.S. against Detroit's "Big Three" automakers, with the triumphant United Auto Workers union launching a campaign afterward to unionize other shops, including Tesla, led by the famously anti-union Elon Musk. (The Tesla CEO called a strike by a Swedish union of Tesla workers "insane," which has prompted more labor unrest for Tesla within Scandinavia.) A deeper look at the auto sector reveals that it often leads the way in shaping work patterns for other industries, with unions usually to thank.

Lamborghini’s shorter week in action

The deal between Lamborghini and its unions is part of a renegotiation involving a framework contract used for workers at its parent company, Germany-based Volkswagen. It includes a hike in annual wages, expanded benefits and the creation of 500 new jobs.

The current agreement boasts a 50% increase in the variable bonus paid to workers in addition to a one-off bonus of more than €1,000 ($1,078) set to be paid later December.

The four-day workweek at Lamborghini will ultimately save production workers 22 working days a year if they are on rotating two-shift schedules, and 31 days if they follow three-shift schedules. It’s unclear when the shorter week will take effect.

The sport carmaker's deal with the union comes at a time when its had one of its "best-ever" half-year results on record, the company said in July. Lamborghini delivered 5,341 vehicles to customers and raked in revenues of €1.42 billion ($1.53 billion) in the first six months of the year.

Lamborghini didn’t immediately return Fortune’s request for comment.

The idea of 32-hour weeks (instead of the traditional 40 hours) has been gaining a lot of traction following successful pilots of the program in the U.S. and U.K., pointing to big gains in productivity, health and job retention among employees. As a result, an overwhelming majority of companies involved in the trial decided to stick with fewer hours at work.

A few big companies have tried to adopt it in recent times—last year Italy’s biggest bank, ntesa Sanpaolo, decided to start a reduced workweek from 2023 onwards, while Scotland’s civil servants are planning to transition to a similar model of working.

Auto workers and their fight for reduced working hours

The auto industry has been instrumental in achieving shorter weeks—going back nearly a century. In 1926, Ford became among the first companies to institute a five-day workweek at a time when workers in the manufacturing sector clocked in 100-hour weeks on average. Later, in 1938, the U.S. Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act under pressure from workers at auto giants like Ford and General Motors to restrict workweeks to 44 hours and then two years later, to 40 hours.

In some ways, history looks like it may be repeating itself as workers have become vocal about needing a shorter workweek more recently. The UAW strike in the U.S. against Ford, Stellantis and General Motors, which was primarily for the want of better pay, also included demands for a 32-hour week as many of the factory workers spend well over the usual 40 hours, UAW president Shawn Fain said during a Facebook live event in September.

"We need to get back fighting for a vision of society in which everyone earns family-sustaining wages, and everyone has enough free time to enjoy their lives and see their kids grow up and their parents grow old," Fain said. The four-day workweek wasn't even on Fain's agenda in those talks, though.

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