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War Economy

The Fifty-four Hour Week

The Fifty-four Hour Week

One of Mr Fletcher's first moves as Commissioner of Defence Construction was to attempt to cope with manpower difficulties in the construction industry by requiring a fifty-four hour working week. The necessary Order was made in March 1942.2

In the same month, defence works had been covered by a declaration of essentiality, making it possible to direct workers into the industry and to divert men from low priority to high priority work.

In the event, the fifty-four hour week proved to be too ambitious. In the winter there were not enough daylight hours to work more than an eight and three-quarter hour day, and the long working week tended to reduce the effectiveness of labour. Men were away from home from 10 ½ to 11 hours a day. In June 1942, hours of work were reduced to 48.

2 The Defence Works Labour Legislation Suspension Order 1942 fixed normal hours of work as 54.