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Monday, March 16, 2009

Time's up?

Crucial negotiations will begin in Brussels tomorrow to try to find a compromise over the EU's controversial Working Time Directive.

You may remember that MEPs - led by Labour's very own Stephen Hughes - voted against a Council deal to keep the UK's opt-out from the EU's 48-hour week, back in December.

Now, the negotiations are at what's called the 'conciliation' stage - where MEPs and the Council have to come up with a compromise.

In theory, this stage can last for up to six weeks, but rumour has it that tomorrow's negotiations are likely to be the end of the story - and if not, it's likely there will be only one other meeting, in around two weeks' time. Crucially, the UK Government - which is in favour of the keeping the opt-out - does not have a veto over whatever is decided at the 'conciliation' state.

(You may or may not find comfort from the fact that we are being represented by Lord Mandelson - who, as we were reminded this morning - needs to keep the EU sweet if he is to continue receiving his generous EU payoff.)

With more than 3 million people working more than 48 hours a week, and plenty of others no doubt in favour of keeping the option to choose to do so, this is a huge deal.

Imagine if the House of Commons was set to vote tomorrow on whether or not to bring in a 48-hour maximum working week? The press would rightly be all over it like a rash. Imagine if the Government was proposing to put something through Parliament that would cost £8 billion a year - as we've calculated the loss of the opt-out would cost the economy? Ditto.

Instead, few people even seem to realise this is happening. And little wonder - the negotiations are going on behind closed doors in Brussels, and it is typically difficult to find out what any of the positions are or even when the actual decision will be made. Could be tomorrow, could be in a fortnight - could be in six weeks. Who knows?

In conversations with the British Steelwork Association (BCSA), which is leading a campaign to keep the opt-out*, civil servants apparently said that the Government was looking for all the evidence it can get to help strengthen its hand in the negotiations with EU partners.

So, we asked 10 UK workers from across the country and across industry to write and tell us why they think the loss of the opt-out would be a terrible idea, both for them personally, and for the industry or businesses they work for. See here to read what they have to say:

http://www.openeurope.org.uk/research/wtdoptout2.pdf

*NB - the BSCA, after polling than 1,000 workers, taken from 30 companies all over the UK, found a staggering 90% signed a petition in favour of retaining the opt-out.

11 comments:

RCS said...

I would agree that people should not be forced to work more than 48 hours a week. But to deny them the right to do so is a denying them a fundamental choice of how they wish to lead their lives. In Medicine, for example,working hard was understood as being part of the deal and was widely accepted because it extended experience and training. Anyone who wishes to work hard to support their lives and families should be able to do and companies should be allowed to offer the choice of working extra hours without compulsion. If one doesn't like the conditions of the job one doesn't have to take it.

I think that the EU ruling is denying the people of Europe a fundamental human right.

Why 48 hours? Why not 40 or 35? Presumably the maximum working week will be downgraded still further on an arbitary basis without any consideration of the economic consequences.

I hate to say it, but if this is imposed on the UK, the Goverment should tell the EU to stuff it and not comply. What will the EU do? Take us before the ECJ? Fine us? As Mrs Thatcher remarked the EU cannot be reformed via normal political processes and the only way to reform it is through ignoring its diectives.

Number 6 said...

To attempt to 'reform' the EU is akin to attempting to reform the Mafia. Both are totally corrupt organisations beyond repair.

The only way to deal with the EU is to leave it.

mjay1950 said...

I fully agree with Number 6 - leave the EU and let it destroy itself.

piggy said...

How can this monotonous shower tell the 'British peoples' that they should work less, as we are fully in a recession they should keep their views to themselves, they seem to have more time on their hands than the poor people on the 'dole', with their making new rules daily.
How the hell we were put into this mess is beyond me, while we are struggling we do NOT need some overpaid fool telling us that he 'Thinks' that he knows best.
Can we please play the "Red Card" and leave? thank you.

Piggy said...

The idea that this monotonous shower who seem to have more time on their hands than the poor people on the dole, demanding that we 'British peoples' should tow their line, is nothing short of insulting, how in heaven did we get sucked into this mess, considering everyone disagrees with all that they try to enforce on us,and as we are fully in a recession, all the peoples of 'Britain' WANT to work to save the mess, that our un-elected leader has got us into, without any help from us.
Can we please use the "Red card" and leave? thank you.

mini 8584 said...

It is quite obviouse that these'meps' dont have a clue or care, about what they're talking about!The billions that it will cost the country, and workers in lost wages is beyond belief.Personally,Im retired trucker,and if I were at work, the 'eu' 'could go forth and multiply'.Dont they realize, or care, that the supermarkets will not get food delivered because of their idea's. As far as I'm concerned, I dont and never will, recognise the so called 'eu' government, only that it must be one of the most corrupt organisations in the world!

Anonymous said...

I work on a farm, during the summer months farmers often work more than 50 hours a week to ensure that the harvest is done while there is good weather, with a poor harvest last year due to heavy rainfall, a law like this would put farmers under alot strain and even out of business. Pull out of the EU, it would make the Uk a better place

Taff said...

Great,the idiots of the E.U. now want to put a cap on what I can earn!
Pay rates have been steadily eroded in this country over many years and the only way to earn a reasonable wage is to work overtime-in my case,more than 48 hours a week.Let's all vote U.K.I.P. so that Nigel can pull us out of the mire that our leaders (?) have worked so tirlessly to put us in.

Anonymous said...

I am an employer with 18 people working for me. My company provides a service to the distillery industry and others in the north of Scotland and have to respond to their needs for breakdowns etc. at all times of day & night. Losing the opt-out will be disastrous for us and could potentially mean the end of the road for us. These lunatics in Europe need to be firmly put in their place. It is not surprising that the woman driving this nonsense is a left wing German socialist. The Stasi are alive and well & haven't gone away.

Nicholas Lee said...

Whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. Can nobody in this country's leadership have the sheer guts to say 'Enough is enough. We're pulling out of this unbelievable mess that the EU has become'? I love the variety and diversity of Europe, but trying to squeeze us all into the same mould cannot and never will work. We must get out of it - NOW!

Mike said...

A simple question really.
By forcing individuals to work 48 hours or less isn't the European Union violating their human rights ?