No new Working Time

14th of January 2013 Article by Andrew Large
No new Working Time

Andrew Large, executive vice-president for the World Federation of Building Service Contractors (WFBSC) and also director general for the Cleaning and Support Services Association (CSSA) in the UK, reports with news on proposed revisions to the Working Time directive.

In the middle of December, Business Europe announced that its negotiations with the European Trade Unions over revisions to the Working Time Directive had broken down.

Somewhat unceremoniously, the ball has been passed back to the European Commission to see if they wish to make a formal proposal for a revision of the Directive.

I very much doubt that this will happen any time soon. The European Commission was rather pushed by the trade unions into proposing amendments on working time and few were convinced that a modification of the existing directive was feasible.

Moreover, there is some history here. Nobody wants to relive the experience of the last attempt to revise the directive between January 2004 and April 2009 where Member States and the European Parliament did not come to an agreement after five years of discussions and negotiations.

The Commission is well aware that a new attempt would be time consuming and likely futile.

Furthermore, the existing Commission will expire in 2014 and in parallel there will be the June 2014 elections for the European Parliament. The Commission would not want to re-launch a controversial initiative into such politically charged waters.

To be honest though, the main reasons for not proceeding with such a change should not be bureaucratic, but rather based on a desire to see Europe's economies back on the track of growth and prosperity. EU unemployment currently averages 10.7 per cent and 11.8 per cent in the Euro area. Unemployment in Spain and Greece is over 25 per cent.

The EU desperately needs new jobs to be created to reduce the economic and social impacts of joblessness.

The Union should be looking at targeted measures to make job creation more likely, not putting further barriers in the way of businesses that might dissuade them from taking on new employees. The last thing that is needed now is a protracted period of uncertainty while the EU gazes into its navel and considers whether working hours should be further restricted.

One final thought. What applies to working time should apply across all EU legislation. Most member states are bending over backwards to reduce bureaucracy and make investment in their economies easier. What applies to the individual states should also apply to the EU as a whole.

Unless and until the European Commission publishes a genuine deregulation package that focuses the EU on those things that are essential for a proper single market and ditches the rest, many in the EU simply won't take it as a serious player in the post 2008 crash world.

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