France, Germany switch off economies, switch on TVs for crunch tie

Fri Jul 4, 2014 7:52am EDT
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PARIS/BERLIN (Reuters) - The euro zone's two largest economies slipped into low gear on Friday as workers in Germany and France skipped shifts or put up TV screens in the workplace to watch the crunch World Cup quarter-final between their nations.

Politics also ground slowly to a halt, with the ruling Socialists in France even demanding that the day's session be curtailed to end at 6:00 p.m. (1600 GMT) - kick-off time - to accommodate senators eager to follow the match live.

"Better that than having the senators watching their tablets during the session or continually sneaking out to watch snippets of the game," a party spokeswoman said. "It just shows that senators are typical men."

In Germany, auto giant Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) cancelled the late shift for 4,000 workers at its main plant in the northern city of Wolfsburg, and a company spokesman said similar arrangements would be made at other factories.

Drug-maker Bayer came up with another solution aimed at keeping business ticking over during the two hours of the encounter.

"We're going for flexibility," a spokesman explained. "So employees can swap their shifts with others less interested in football or - with a manager's approval - take time off from holiday or working time credits."

Surprising many, France have advanced to the quarter-final stage of the World Cup to meet their toughest challenge yet in nemesis Germany, which dealt them heart-breaking World Cup semi-final defeats in 1982 and 1986.

Work comes second to football not only in traditional soccer nations like France and Germany. U.S. head coach Juergen Klinsmann - a former German national - produced a spoof "doctor's note" for American fans seeking to skip work to watch the U.S.-Germany tie earlier in the tournament. "I understand that this absence may reduce the productivity of your workplace, but I can assure you that it is for an important cause," wrote Klinsmann.


People watch Germany play against Algeria during their 2014 World Cup round of 16 game, at the Fanmeile public viewing arena in Berlin June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Thomas Peter