A black day for entrepreneurship for some politicians… a call to end employer abuse for others. The European Parliament has voted to scrap Britain’s opt-out from the EU’s 48-hour maximum working week. Under the working time directive three years from now, governments might no longer be able to let firms ignore the limit. Socialist, Green and Christian Democratic members — including members of Britain’s ruling Labour party — voted to tighten the rules in the name of health and safety.
The head of the European Public Service Union Federation, Carola Fischbach-Pyttel explains the vote’s significance. “I think the working time directive, despite its weaknesses, is an integral part of the EU’s social dimension. If that was watered down, I think (the message that would) go out to many members who represent the workers within Europe to say the EU is only about one big liberalised market and nothing else; it’s only for the employers but not for the workers. After all that’s part of the French discussion on the referendum.”
The law process is a long one, though, and conservatives fighting for lighter regulation, such as Tory MEP Philip Bushmill-Matthews, are putting the stress on individual choice:
“It’s a matter the European trade unions have encouraged themselves to take a stand on because it’s about promoting collective agreements because they want to be able to decide how people should live their lives; We believe it should be for individuals to live their lives as they choose.” In another headache for governments, parliament voted that all on-call time should be counted as working time, even when doctors sleep while on duty.