Talks in Brussels on the revisions to the EU Working Time Directive ended last night without agreement. At least nine EU countries now using the opt-out from the 48-hour week, including the UK, refused to budge over MEPs' demands that the concession be scrapped. One last round of negotiations between officials from EU governments and a delegation of MEPs could take place this month - or plans to update the Working Time Directive will fall and the opt-out will continue.
PA reports that at the very least, MEPs are pushing for an updated working hours law to include a review of the opt-out to phase it out in three years - flatly rejected by the UK.
A press release from the Tories in the European Parliament tells us that Conservative employment spokesman Philip Bushill-Matthews MEP - who by the way is doing a great job trying to stop this madness - walked out of negotiations at 4am, branding them a "sham discussion going round in endless circles". Interesting at least how politicians wanting to limit the working hours of ordinary people are themselves working into the small hours. Apparently some are more equal than others...
One of the leading voices in the European Parliament calling for an end to the UK’s opt-out from the 48-hour week, which we estimate would cost up to £11.9 billion a year by 2011, is Labour's very own Stephen Hughes (pictured).
On the Today programme yesterday he actually tried to blame teenage pregnancies on the opt-out:
"I think another useful study might be to look at the correlation between very long working time in Britain and teenage pregnancy, social dysfunction; a whole range of social indices that might well suffer as a consequence of the long working hours culture in Britain.”