Kok expert group was divided over working hours

Longer working hours and delayed retirement were the main
sticking points among the expert group chaired by Wim Kok, which is
carrying out a review of the Lisbon process.

The eagerly awaited Kok Report was adopted by the high level
expert group despite internal differences, a source close to the
group told EURACTIV.

The main sticking points were differences between employers and
trade unionists over longer working hours and a later retirement
age, according to the British newspaper
the Guardian.

In their review of the target to increase the overall
employment rate in the EU from the current 64 to 70 per cent (60
per cent for women), the group’s members were at odds over labour
issues. While the employers in the group wanted greater flexibility
built into working hours and a clear reference saying that the
French model of the 35-hour week is not sustainable, trade
unionists were strongly opposed to this approach. 

John Monks, chairman of the European unions’ federation ETUC,
was quoted as saying that rather than looking to the US, Europe
should take examples from its own ranks. Finland for example,
which has repeatedly been ranked the world’s most competitive
economy (see EURACTIV 15 October 2004), manages
to combine low unemployment with flexible
retirement schemes and a high union density, said
Monks in the Guardian.

It is not yet known how the issues were resolved within the
group.

The Kok Report will, as planned, be presented to the Commission
on 3 November 2004 and to the European Council on 5 November
2004.  

The report is also expected to recommend national action plans
to be drawn up by the member states and for the number of
goals set out by the Lisbon agenda to be reduced (see EURACTIV 12 October 2004).

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