Arguments and Holidays (Intermediate)

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Jill and Steve demonstrate the way to debate in English as they talk about the issue of employee vacation time.

Steve: Jill. Here we are again. We’re going to try to debate something. Let’s try to be controversial.

Jill: Hi Steve. How are you?

Steve: Not too bad. Boy it’s blowing outside. What a miserable, miserable day.

Jill: Yeah, nice summer day for us in Vancouver.

Steve: There’s no difference between June the 29th and I don’t know, November.

Jill: November.

Steve: November the 15th. This is terrible.

Jill: I mean it’s definitely warmer but it’s not very nice.

Steve: It’s very unpleasant. You know Jill, one of the things that bothers me is whenever we talk here we always agree but in life, you often disagree with people.

Jill: Of course.

Steve: I think it’s an important language skill to be able to disagree, present your views without offending the other person. Very often if you’re in a foreign language where you don’t have all the words at your disposal and you feel strongly about something it’s very easy to say it in such a direct way that first of all, you’re not going to convince anyone. Of course, we can never convince anyone anyway, but that’s another story. You’re not going to convince them and you may well offend them.

Jill: Right.

Steve: So, what we’ll do today is I want you to pick a subject and I want you to tell me which side of the argument you’re going to defend.

Jill: Okay.

Steve: And I will defend the other side and we’ll try to have a polite, civilized debate.

Jill: Okay.

Steve: What do you want to talk about?

Jill: So, actually we’ve been talking about this a little bit recently because we have a lot of learners in Europe and it being the summertime a lot of them are taking vacation and most countries in western Europe anyway seem to give everybody five, six weeks holiday per year, and in Canada legal requirement for a full time employee is only two weeks and many employers give three weeks and then in different union situations people may get four, five or six, a lot more.

Steve: With seniority and stuff.

Jill: With seniority right but I think there are a lot of people who get two or three weeks.

Steve: Right.

Jill: in Canada. So I think maybe I will take the position that that is just not fair.

Steve: What’s not fair?

Jill: Two or three weeks. I think five or six sounds better.

Steve: Well, could you, alright. I hear what you’re saying. I should just interrupt here. What we’re going to do is we’re going to use a lot of expressions that are used in discussion in order to lubricate the discussion to make the discussion more pleasant and so I hope that people who listen to this content and then read it that they will save some of these expressions and hopefully be able to use them.

Jill: Right.

Steve: So, I hear what you’re saying but as an employer if I am only required to give my employees two or three weeks of holiday a year and if my employees accept that because everyone else in the society is happy to have two or three weeks, why would I possibly suggest that they have five or six weeks?

Jill: Right, which is perfectly understandable. From an employer’s perspective I agree totally and I may even be the same if I was an employer. On the other hand, there can be arguments for the fact that people who have adequate time off are actually more productive during the time that they are at work. Um, so I guess really, it needs to maybe be weighed, how much it’s costing you, what the cost benefit ratio is. You know, do you give an extra week and do you get more productivity out of that person because they have more rest or whatever, relaxation or do you not get any more productivity out of them and you’re just paying them for another week of holidays?

Steve: Yeah, I think that’s a good way of putting it. And, I know that in Europe typically the employee will take a full month off.

Jill: Right.

Steve: And have another couple of weeks later on so they’ll take their month in whatever, August.

Jill: Right.

Steve: And then they’ll get another two weeks to go skiing and yeah, you could argue that the company doesn’t suffer but, I mean, presumably the employee is doing something while at work.

Jill: Right.

Steve: So if say six weeks out of fifty-two the employee is not at work presumably that represents a cost.

Jill: Exactly.

Steve: to the employer. Now, you’re saying that after four weeks of holiday the employee comes back fully recharged but three weeks wouldn’t do it.

Jill: No, not even necessarily, I think that when you only, if you get two weeks for example a year you’re likely not to take two weeks at a time because you probably want a bit of time off at Christmas and you probably want a bit of time off in the summer so you will likely only take a maximum of a week at a time. And, I think for most people a week is not really enough.

Steve: Right, but we do have holidays around Christmas and around Easter.

Jill: Long weekends, yes.

Steve: Long weekends and so forth. By the way are we negotiating here?

Jill: No and to be honest I actually, I mean I’m defending a position but I kind of think that five or six weeks is a little bit ridiculous. I’m not really …

Steve: But you know Jill, in these discussions and we’re going to do more of them, I don’t, I mean I could be on the other side, okay? Should we switch? I’ll defend the six weeks and you, because you’re too reasonable. I want you to be stronger. I’ll defend the six weeks. Alright? I’ll tell you why six weeks is good. First of all, because every employee gives his best for the company but they also have a life to lead.

Jill: Right.

Steve: So, you could argue from the employer’s perspective that the employer should give no holidays at all. I mean from the employer’s perspective if, for the same salary he can give no holidays and have the employee work 10 hours a day, maybe one day off a week, that would be better. Now you’re saying, and I agree with you that there is an issue there of recharging the batteries but that’s very difficult to measure. So, I think one of the strongest arguments is that the employee who granted, gets paid but gives so much of his or her time to the company, if they can, if the company can achieve its objectives and the employee can enjoy a richer life.

Jill: And is happy.

Steve: And is happy because they can spend more time with their family, they can take three weeks off in the summer, they can go off to the beach or climb a mountain or whatever, and then they can go again and maybe, you know ski or they can go do something educational with their kids, they can go visit Europe then why wouldn’t the employer do that?

Jill: Right.

Steve: As long as it doesn’t harm you know, essentially the economic performance of the company.

Jill: Right.

Steve: So, I, quite honestly, six weeks? Yeah, why not? The problem however is it would affect the economic performance of the company. I think six weeks, I agree with you. We have to find another subject where we disagree.

Jill: Where we disagree. I mean not that I wouldn’t love to have six weeks. I’m not saying I wouldn’t love that and my mom gets seven weeks holiday every year.

Steve: Because she’s worked a long time?

Jill: She’s worked a lot of years and just, she’s not in a union but she’s in a managerial role working for our health care system. And, so yes she started at four weeks 25 years ago and now she gets seven and a half weeks or something and it’s great. She takes a month off in the summer and she takes a week or two at Christmas.

Steve: Now that raises some interesting points. First of all, in the public sector, they have more generous, more generous conditions than in the private sector.

Jill: Right.

Steve: And yet it’s the taxpayer who’s paying for that.

Jill: Right.

Steve: I sat beside a gentleman on my last flight back from Europe who was from Holland and he had left the private sector and moved into the public sector in Holland and his holidays went from five weeks to nine weeks.

Jill: That’s unbelievable.

Steve: Now why should the public sector, where they are not facing the problems of economic survival of their unit, why should they get these kinds of holiday conditions? And there is no limit. I mean, yeah, let’s work six months and get off six months. Sure, the employee would like that. So, that’s one issue. The other issue is this whole seniority thing that we have here. Why, you know why should the lady with all due respect to your mother, who is probably in her 50s, why should she have seven weeks and someone just starting who has a family and wants to spend time with his or her kids or with his or her husband, wife, whatever, why do they get less? Why should the person’s that’s worked, you know, I don’t think that’s very …

Jill: I guess that’s because they’ve earned it, it’s sort of a, perk for having been there so long and given your loyalty for so long. I guess I don’t know if that’s the reason or not but yeah, that seems to be how it is. You, you sort of acquire these vacations, you earn more vacation.

Steve: The problem is then we have in our society, we have started to look at certain things as being rights. So, with seniority you have certain rights. Is it fair? Is it fair that a 50 year old gets twice the amount of holiday as a 25 year old? Not necessarily.

Jill: No, it would be more fair to bring it down and balance everything out and maybe give everybody four weeks or whatever.

Steve: Maybe there are no rights there. Maybe there is no fair there. It’s just, and, but still, I think two, I agree with you, we’re supposed to disagree but I agree with you two weeks is too little.

Jill: Two weeks is too little, yeah.

Steve: At least four weeks, three to four weeks is not a bad number because we only live once and we need to have the time to enjoy our lives as well. What we have to do Jill is we have to find something where…

Jill: A more controversial topic?

Steve: More controversial. How controversial can we get?

Jill: Well.

Steve: Let’s see what we do for the next topic.

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