TUC accuses British Government of misrepresenting work-time facts

the future of the UK’s opt-out to the European Working Time Directive with the
European Commission, the TUC claims the UK Government has "has seriously
misrepresented the situation" in this country.

opt-out allows individuals to sign away their right to work no more than 48
hours a week on average.

a report and letter sent to the commission today, the TUC analyses the UK
Government submission and finds that it:

denies that long-hours working has an effect on health and safety despite British
Government research that shows that there are ‘clear grounds for concern about
the adverse effects of long-hours working and the frequency of health and
safety incidents

only refers to the incidence of accidents at work when the European Court of Justice
has established in the case, that the UK Conservative Government lost in 1996,
that health and safety should include issues such as heart attacks, stress and
occupational diseases

argues that Ireland and Denmark have good records on job creation because they
have flexible labour markets, even though both countries have implemented
working-time rules in full

claims the UK Government is already tackling the long-hours culture, even
though the reduction in longs hours working has been so slow that it will take
the UK another 40 years to reach the EU average

claims there is high awareness and easy enforcement of working-time rights,
even though only one in three workers know about the 48-hour limit.

claims that two-thirds of long-hours workers would face a pay cut if a 48-hour
average week was introduced. The TUC said the true figure is two-fifths and
ignores the likelihood that employers will secure sufficient productivity gains
to reduce working time with no loss of pay

aims to weaken the employee voice by automatically working out the average
working time over 52 weeks (a year) rather than the current 17 weeks (which, at
present, can only  be extended to a year
though a union or workforce agreement).  

general secretary Brendan Barber said: "The UK Government’s evidence is
riddled with errors, inconsistencies and sloppy argument. If this is the best
it can do, it shows the strength of the case for ending the opt-out.

only worry is that the commission may fail to understand that this is little
more than a cut-and-paste job from employer lobbying.

By Quentin Reade

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