French employees in revolt over short hours

In a move that supports arguments that the UK should be allowed to continue
to opt out from the Working Time Directive, French workers are rejecting the
country’s 35-hour working week.

According to a poll conducted for L’Expansion magazine, employees are
growing increasingly disaffected over the 35-hour week and are demanding the
freedom to work longer hours.

More than 60 per cent of employees think the limit penalises French
companies, and more than half feel the legislation is encouraging companies to
relocate outside France.

Thirty-six per cent of French workers want to see a return to their
traditional working week of 39 hours.

The cut to 35 hours was introduced five years ago under socialist premier
Lionel Jospin.

The EU is currently reviewing the UK’s opt-out clause, which allows
employees to choose to work longer than the 48-hour maximum stipulated by the
Working Time Directive.

Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at the Chartered Institute of
Personnel and Development, said the cost of limiting the working week in
France, originally carried by government, was now being passed onto employees.

"Some of the financial strain is falling on the employee. They are
enjoying the freedom, they are getting time to go to the Alps, but the bill is
being called in and they can’t square the circle."

However, TUC policy officer Paul Sellers argues that French workers are
lucky to have the luxury to debate whether they prefer the 35- or 39-hour week.

"The priority [in the UK] is to end the opt-out," he said.
"We need to protect people’s health and safety."

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