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German politicians call for workers to get day off for public holidays that fall on weekends

In Germany when a public holiday falls on a weekend, the government does not allocate a day off in the week, unlike countries such as the UK and the US. Could this be about to change?

German politicians call for workers to get day off for public holidays that fall on weekends
A popular holiday spot in Germany at the coast in Boltenhagen, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Photo: DPA

German politicians from various political parties are calling for public holidays that fall on a weekend to be offered to employees during the work week as a day off, in what they are calling a ‘corona bonus’.

According to a report in the Saarbrücker Zeitung on Monday, the debate started due to an unusually large number of public holidays which fall on a weekend in 2021, including Labour Day on May 1st, German Unity Day on October 3rd and the Christmas holidays.

This year both December 24th and 25th fall on the weekend.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What (and where) are Germany's public holidays in 2021?

“It would be a recognition and a simple corona bonus if the following Monday were then free for workers,” Social Democratic Parliamentary group vice chairman Dirk Wiese told the newspaper on Monday.

National leader of Left Party (die Linke), Jörg Schindler, also called for employers be obliged to offer compensation for employees the following week.

The ‘Working Hours Act’ should be amended accordingly, he said, meaning that the right to take back holidays which fall on the weekend would stretch beyond 2021. 

The labour market policy spokesperson for the Greens, Beate Müller-Gemmeke, stressed: “Holidays are days of rest for people.”

Therefore, the issue must now be debated “in a calm manner,” she said.

A previous push

The Left Party in the Bundestag had already made several attempts to introduce compensation regulations for public holidays which land over the weekend. 

In 2018, it pointed out in a motion that more than 85 countries had compensation regulations for public holidays that fell on a Sunday.

In addition to national holidays, each of Germany’s 16 states have their own holidays, with some states having several more days off per year than others.

Bavaria is the state with the most public holidays, or 13.

Late last year, The Local asked readers in Germany if public holidays which fall on weekends should be compensated the coming week. An overwhelming majority were in favour.

READ ALSO: Should Germany ensure workers get a day off for every public holiday?

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IN IMAGES: Spain’s ‘scrap cathedral’ lives on after creator’s death

For over 60 years, former monk Justo Gallego almost single-handedly built a cathedral out of scrap materials on the outskirts of Madrid. Here is a picture-based ode to his remarkable labour of love.

IN IMAGES: Spain's 'scrap cathedral' lives on after creator's death
File photo taken on August 3, 1999 shows Justo Gallego Martinez, then 73, posing in front of his cathedral. Photo: ERIC CABANIS / AFP

The 96-year-old died over the weekend, but left the unfinished complex in Mejorada del Campo to a charity run by a priest that has vowed to complete his labour of love.

Gallego began the project in 1961 when he was in his mid-30s on land inherited from his family after a bout of tuberculosis forced him to leave an order of Trappist monks.

Today, the “Cathedral of Justo” features a crypt, two cloisters and 12 towers spread over 4,700 square metres (50,600 square feet), although the central dome still does not have a cover.

He used bricks, wood and other material scavenged from old building sites, as well as through donations that began to arrive once the project became better known.

A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The building’s pillars are made from stacked oil drums while windows have been cobbled and glued together from shards of coloured glass.

“Recycling is fashionable now, but he used it 60 years ago when nobody talked about it,” said Juan Carlos Arroyo, an engineer and architect with engineering firm Calter.

Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid.
Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid. Photo: (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

The charity that is taking over the project, “Messengers of Peace”, hired the firm to assess the structural soundness of the building, which lacks a permit.

No blueprint

“The structure has withstood significant weather events throughout its construction,” Arroyo told AFP, predicting it will only need some “small surgical interventions”.

Renowned British architect Norman Foster visited the site in 2009 — when he came to Spain to collect a prize — telling Gallego that he should be the one getting the award, Arroyo added.

Religious murals on a walls of Justo's cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Religious murals on a walls of Justo’s cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The sturdiness of the project is surprising given that Gallego had no formal training as a builder, and he worked without a blueprint.

In interviews, he repeatedly said that the details for the cathedral were “in his head” and “it all comes from above”.

Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The complex stands in a street called Avenida Antoni Gaudi, named after the architect behind Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Familia basilica which has been under construction since 1883.

But unlike the Sagrada Familia, the Cathedral of Justo Gallego as it is known is not recognised by the Roman Catholic Church as a place of worship.

Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral's completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral’s completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

‘Worth visiting’

Father Angel Garcia Rodriguez, the maverick priest who heads Messengers of Peace, wants to turn Gallego’s building into an inclusive space for all faiths and one that is used to help the poor.

“There are already too many cathedrals and too many churches, that sometimes lack people,” he said.

“It will not be a typical cathedral, but a social centre where people can come to pray or if they are facing difficulties,” he added.

A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

Father Angel is famous in Spain for running a restaurant offering meals to the homeless and for running a church in central Madrid where pets are welcome and the faithful can confess via iPad.

Inside the Cathedral of Justo, volunteers continued working on the structure while a steady stream of visitors walked around the grounds admiring the building in the nondescript suburb.

“If the means are put in, especially materials and money, to finish it, then it will be a very beautiful place of worship,” said Ramon Calvo, 74, who was visiting the grounds with friends.

FIND OUT MORE: How to get to Justo’s Cathedral and more amazing images

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