Social summit fails to break working time stalemate

In a meeting preceding the Informal Council of employment and social affairs ministers in Helsinki, the European social partners have confirmed their deep divide over the Working Time Directive. 

In the meeting on 7 July 2006, employers’ organisations and ETUC, the European Trade Union Confederation, did not manage to find an agreement on national opt-out clauses from the disputed directive. In first reading, the Parliament had voted to end the use of the opt-out from the maximum 48 hour working week. A number of member states, led by the UK, insist however to maintain national derogations from the principle.

Divisions remain also on how inactive on-call times will be dealt with. The European Court of Justice has ruled in three cases that ‘on-call working time’ – when the employee must be available in the workplace – should be defined as working time under the terms of the Directive. CEEP, representing enterprises with public participation and carrying out services of general economic interest, insists on a more flexible approach to on-call duties, for instance for health care personnel. 

The Draft Directive’s main provisions are the following: 

  • A maximum weekly working time of 48 hours on average, including overtime
  • At least four weeks’ paid annual leave
  • A minimum rest period of 11 hours in each 24, and one day in each week
  • A rest break if the working day is longer than six hours
  • A maximum of eight hours’ night work, on average, in each 24.

At the Social Affairs and Employment Informal Summit, Finnish labour minister Tarja Filatov said the Finnish Presidency was going to continue to try and find a compromise in the working time dispute. 

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