Talks late into the night finally thrashed out a long-deadlocked EU deal on setting work time rules, blocked mainly by Britain. An agreement on equal rights for agency workers, reached last month in London paved the way for Britain to lift its opposition to setting minimum EU standards for them.
Unions say agency employees suffer from poor job security. As part of the compromise, ministers agreed salaried workers can work more than the current 48 hours a week maximum. The new limit is 60 or 65 hours a week, satisfying a British demand, in certain circumstances.
The deal needs ratification by the European Parliament, where it could run into stiff opposition. Five countries; Spain, Belgium, Hungary, Greece and Cyprus have promised to lead a rearguard action in Brussels and Strasbourg to scupper it.
The rules needed revision because an EU court ruled most member states are not respecting existing laws.
It considered on-call time, especially for workers at hospitals, should count as working time.