TUC fights WTD opt-out war

Trade unions are lobbying for a shorter working week, just days ahead of an EU meeting over the UK opt-out of the Working Time Directive (WTD).

The government is expected to argue to keep the UK’s opt-out but the TUC is prepared to expose what it calls the country’s long hours’ culture.

According to the TUC, employers have wrongly claimed that long hours do not have a detrimental effect on the health of workers, with union statistics suggesting that long-hours workers drink and smoke more regularly.

Evidence also suggests they are also likely to suffer an increased risk of heart disease, mental illness, diabetes and bowel problems, the TUC said.

The average full-time UK employee works a 43.7-hour week, longer than in any comparable country in the EU. The TUC estimates 16% of the UK labour force – some 3.9 million people – work more than 48 hours per week.

Tony Blair has already promised to oppose plans by the European parliament to stop countries such as the UK from opting out of the WTD.

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