Revision of the working time directive: The ETUC calls on the European Parliament and the Council to agree on fundamental changes
The European Parliament is about to vote on the first reading of the revision of the Working Time Directive at its forthcoming plenary session. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), at its Steering Committee meeting on 3 May, reaffirmed its rejection of the European Commission’s existing proposals for revision of the Directive, which are unbalanced and harmful to the welfare of workers. At the same time, the ETUC calls on the EP to play its role in proposing fundamental changes, and insists that the Council of Ministers acts in accordance and cooperates closely with the Parliament in the coming revision process, so as to safeguard fundamental social rights in the European Union.
What are the main Commission proposals and the ETUC’s reaction to them?
Commission: keeping in place the individual ‘opt-out’ clause permitting employers to reach agreement with individual workers not to apply maximum working hours limits.
ETUC: in agreement with the majority of the European Parliament, the ETUC insists that the Directive must be revised in order to phase out the individual opt-out within three years.
Commission: defining so-called inactive parts of on-call duty as not being working time, even when the worker has to be available in the workplace.
ETUC: the ETUC has found no convincing evidence that Member States cannot implement the ECJ’s rulings, confirming that ‘on-call working time’, when the employee must be available in the workplace, should be defined as working time. The ETUC has continuously demanded proposals that respect the ECJ judgements, promote balanced solutions on the basis of collective bargaining, and guarantee workers the right to adequate rest periods. The ETUC takes the same position as the majority in the EP Employment Committee: that the Directive must clearly respect the rulings of the Court.
Commission: Extending the reference period for counting the average maximum working week of 48 hours from four to 12 months, without any safeguard provisions.
ETUC: The ETUC endorses the approach adopted by the majority in the EP Employment Committee, demanding that the existing four-month reference period should remain in place. Longer reference periods, up to 12 months, should be allowed only on the basis of:
collective bargaining, or
additional legal safeguards and conditions that guarantee information and consultation of workers and/or their representatives and adequate protection of their health and safety.
The ETUC finds the Commission’s proposals unacceptable. It is calling on the European Parliament in plenary and Council to agree on fundamental changes in keeping with the true objectives of the Directive: to safeguard the health and safety of workers, promote social dialogue, and improve work organisation.
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