Working Time Directive

29 Apr 2009 10:45:32

Roger Helmer: Working Time opt-out safe - until European elections

Roger Helmer MEP East Midlands MEP Roger Helmer has commented in light of another failed attempt to scrap the Working Time Directive opt-out. Talks took place between the Commission, Parliament and Council of Ministers with the aim of hammering out a deal. But they collapsed on Tuesday morning and the issue now looks to have been put to bed until after the European elections.

Mr Helmer said:

"The result of this breakdown in negotiations is that the opt-out remains secure until the next time Labour MEPs have a chance to undermine it. Our right to choose our own working hours is safe for now.

Over three million people in the UK work more than 48 hours a week, and in these tough times it is more important than ever that people should have the free choice of how best to fend for their families. This outcome is good news not just for the East Midlands retained fire-fighters and care home workers who feared for their livelihoods: it is good news for ordinary workers throughout the area who just want to get on with their job.

The collapse in these talks is an opportunity to tear up the Working Time Directive. Over half of EU countries want to opt-out of the directive and two-thirds find it impossible to implement. The Working Time Directive is a duff directive and should be scrapped. We do not need a prescriptive Diktat from left-wing politicians dictating how many hours people should graciously be permitted by Brussels to work."

2 Apr 2009 13:29:50

Conservative MEPs walk out of Working Time Directive talks

Philip Bushill-Matthews MEP Conservative employment spokesman in the European Parliament Philip Bushill-Matthews has spoken after the Council of Ministers and European Parliament failed to reach an agreement on the Working Time Directive.

Last December the Parliament voted to end the opt-out - with Labour MEPs leading the charge. Mr Bushill-Matthews walked out of the negotiations at 4am today, and comments:

"It was totally predictable that these negotiations would come to a stalemate. It was a sham discussion going round in endless circles.

It is a positive result because it means the UK opt-out will remain intact by default.

Thankfully the Council of Ministers was not prepared to budge on its position. The political reality is that a majority of EU countries now want the right to opt-out of this duff directive.

There now seems little point in us continuing talks when neither side is prepared to offer concessions.

Labour MEPs had said that there needs to be a good reason why the UK government should keep the opt-out. I can give them over three million reasons: the people who already exercise their right to work overtime.

The underlying problem of on-call time has still not been resolved. The Working Time Directive clearly cannot be reformed so surely it is time to go right back to the drawing board. I would be happy to sit down with the commission and work on such a proposal immediately.

The breakdown in the talks is hopefully a victory for sanity. It is time for Labour MEPs to give up on their endless crusade to stop people choosing to work overtime, and finally move on."

17 Dec 2008 16:05:54

Working Time opt-out under threat from European Parliament

Philip_bushillmatthewsWe reported on Monday that Conservative MEPs were battling to save Britain's opt-out from the Working Time Directive.

MEPs have voted to scrap the opt-out. There will now be a period of conciliation between the parliament and the Council of Ministers, which currently supports the opt-out. Philip Bushill-Matthews, the Tory employment spokesman, comments:

"Socialist MEPs have won the batlle today, but they must not be allowed to win the war.

The British government must dig in and defend the opt-out. 15 EU nations now take advantage of the flexibility provided by the opt-out and none of them should back down.

It should never be the place of the European Parliament to tell people they cannot work - particularly during a downturn. Scrapping our Working Time opt-out is even more nonsensical in today's economic climate than ever before.

This is a double failure of Gordon Brown. Not only has he failed to control his MEPs, but he also naively signed up to a package deal that saw Britain give ground on the Agency Workers Directive in exchange for our Working Time opt-out. His folly was to assume the Left in the European Parliament would not sabotage the deal. British businesses have been given two damaging pieces of employment legislation for the price of one."

Once again I feel bound to pose the following question. Would it really be so terrible if Gordon Brown announced that the UK will act unilaterally? The last thing we need at this time is the Working Time Directive.

I believe that the European Union would soon learn to get over it if the Prime Minister said that this was non-negotiable.

Tom Greeves

15 Dec 2008 16:18:51

Philip Bushill-Matthews backs opt-out for EU Working Time Directive

Philip_bushillmatthewsMartin Callanan, MEP for the North East, has written elsewhere on ConservativeHome about the Working Time Directive today. His colleague Philip Bushill-Matthews, Conservative employment spokesman in the European Parliament, has issued a press release.

Labour MEPs oppose the UK's opt-out from the Directive. On Wednesday MEPs will vote on whether to scrap the opt-out. Doing so would require at least 393 MEPs to vote for its abolition. Mr Bushill-Matthews comments in advance of a debate this evening:

"Britain needs the opt-out more than ever.

We will be working up to the last minute to win support for workers' rights to choose their hours, rather than having them dictated by socialists who claim to represent them.

Labour MEPs must now back British businesses and workers, who are struggling to make ends meet. Many people choose to work longer hours to provide a better life for themselves and their families, and politicians should be helping them rather than getting in the way.

Gordon Brown must read his MEPs the riot act this week - before it is too late."

It may seem counter-intuitive or even slippery for Mr Bushill-Matthews to couch his position as one supportive of workers' rights. But whilst the work/life balance matters hugely, he is right that restrictions imposed from above (and elsewhere, as it's an EU Directive) are not helpful. This is all the more important in the current economic climate.

Tom Greeves