In a clash between liberal and social models, EU labour ministers have failed once more to reach a compromise over opt-outs from the working time directive. Britain refused to relinquish special conditions by which it allows its citizens to work longer than the European Union’s maximum 48-hour work week. France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Cyprus blocked a compromise proposal by the EU’s Finnish presidency on reforming the rules.
They demanded Britain should eventually give up its right to opt out of the policy, ten years from now. Among the sticking points on the reform path, rest time for nurses, firemen and security guards must be counted as working time, according to rulings by the European Court of Justice. The European Commission has reiterated it intends to launch legal action against countries that are in breach of the bloc’s working time regulations on this point — that is, all except Italy and Luxembourg.