The trade unions have long demanded that a limit be set on working time. The European Union has acknowledged this principle since its foundation, notably by the European Social Charter in 1961 and the Charter of Fundamental Rights in 2000.
Regarding working time, the Directive on the organisation of working time is monitored very closely by ETUC. The directive aims to both set out a framework for working time for occupational health and safety reasons and to limit a broad culture of excessive working time.
Directive on the organisation of working time
The 1993 Directive on working time took an important step forward by setting the maximum working week at 48 hours, as well as determining rest periods. In November 2008, ETUC has published a comprehensive information leaflet on the Council’s proposals and the trade union movement’s positions regarding the directive’s revision.
2008 was an important year for the revision of the directive. On 9 June, the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) adopted a disastrous position on the directive. That position was repudiated by the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs on 5 November. On 16 December, ETUC held a demonstration in Strasbourg – Priority to workers’ rights, not longer working hours – to encourage the Parliament to vote down the EPSCO proposals and to maintain the position it adopted in its first reading, something which the Parliament did by a large majority on 17 December. The conciliation procedure to reach an agreement between the European Parliament and the Council on the revision of the Working Time Directive failed at the end of April 2009. ETUC will continue to fight for adequate minimum standards.
In March 2010 Commission took up again the revision process of the working time Directive by consulting the European social partners. ETUC did not change its position and provided its input by stressing (again) its key demands: workers health and safety at work cannot be subordinated to purely economic or financial considerations; end of the opt-out; on-call work is working time; equivalent compensatory rest being fundamental, no prolongation of the reference periods without sufficient safeguards and that the maximum working time has to be counted by worker and not by contract. ETUC position : http://www.etuc.org/a/7350
In the 2nd consultation round the Commission makes two propositions for the revision: a) to focus the review on on-call work or b) to make a comprehensive review. The European Social Partners have until the end of February 2011 to provide their input.
In November 2011 , the European Social Partners launch negotiations on working time directive.The first negotiation meeting is scheduled for 8 December 2011.
Should the European social partners be able to conclude these negotiations within the nine month period foreseen by the Treaty, they would inform the Commission of the results achieved at the beginning of September 2012.
The ETUC website provides information on a number of policy activities that the confederation develops in relation to the organisation of working time. This information can be accessed by type of document at the following links: