Employers and unions unite against EC working hours legislation proposals

Unions
and employers were today united in condemning new European Commission proposals
aimed at tightening up regulations on working hours.

The
commission’s proposal state that the UK
or any other EU country can continue to apply the individual opt-out to the
48-hour limit, but it would be done by collective agreement in the workplace.
The period for calculating the average 48-hour week would also be increased
from four months to one year.

Stavros Dimas, the EU
commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, described the proposal as
"a balanced package of measures that protect the health and safety of
workers whilst introducing greater flexibility and preserving competitiveness."

However,
the TUC said the changes were “a disappointing decision that will satisfy
no-one”.

“These
limited reforms show that the commission has failed to grasp the scale of the UK’s
long-hours culture and the damage it is doing to our workforce and economy,”
said TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.

“British
bosses will still be able to rely on pressuring staff to work long hours
instead of adopting safe, efficient and productive working practices.”

The
CBI immediately pledged that the UK’s
business community would fight "tooth and nail" against the proposals.

"This
is an attempt to broker a compromise that has completely backfired,” said John Cridland, CBI deputy director general. “The proposals show
a clear misunderstanding of the UK’s
industrial relations culture, which serves this country well.

"It
is good that the commission is allowing the opt-out to remain, but it is quite
wrong to give a trade unions a veto over what should
be an individual decision. The proposals would undermine the individual’s right
to choose the hours they work,” he added.

The
legislation will add a considerable burden of red tape to employers’ workloads,
according to legal experts.

Owen
Warnock, employment law partner at Eversheds, said:
“While the opt-out from the 48-hour week still remains, it is in a much more
restricted form and will, in every case, mean considerable paper-pushing.

“The
maximum 65-hour working week also presents problems for many industries, where
employees work in concentrated periods and then have a long break.”    

By Daniel Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

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