Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

The working time directive business

It’s big news, the European Parliament’s vote (378 to 262) to remove Britain’s opt out from the working time directive. But the focus has largely been on the fact that Labour’s MEPs voted with the Socialist group in the EP rather than follow the party’s official line, which was to maintain more flexibility. As this blog is nominally supposed to have a bit of an EU focus, have some:

There have been scare stories of understaffing and job cuts if a 48 hour maximum week is imposed, and scare stories of overworked and knackered doctors and firefighters and whathaveyous if it isn’t.

To be honest, I can see the merits of both sides of the argument. No regulations on working hours and employees can continue to be exploited (a certain person sitting not too far from me being obliged by contract to work as many hours as are needed to get the job done – without overtime pay); regulations on working hours and overly keen employees who have the luxury of getting overtime may miss out on extra pay.

Tricky, though I am beginning to lean towards the opinion of the eurosceptic Scotsman on this one. I also reckon it should be more than possible to prevent employee exploitation without putting caps on the number of hours they can work via better regulation of other areas of employment contracts. Because, let’s face it, when you’re offered a job you’ll often sign up for pretty much anything – if you don’t, someone else will.

Britain now has to gain a bit of extra support from our EU friends to get the thing thrown out at the Council of Ministers and then it’ll take three years to come into force, so it’s not over yet. Perhaps by the time that it is I’ll understand it all a bit better…

More at the European Parliament, EU Observer and The Financial Times. There’s also a handy working time directive Q&A from the Guardian.