Thursday, June 12, 2008
65 hour working week posted by Richard SeymourI've just been told by a friend in Europe that the EU's employment ministers have forced through a 65 hour working week:
Following 3 years of tough negotiations, the Employment Ministers of EU member states have reached an agreement to allow for a work week of up to 65 hours or more. After long talks and with France and Italy changing their stance under Sarkozy and Berlusconi, a political agreement was reached on a 13-hour working day. On-call time is divided into active non active, with only the latter being remunerated.
Employers will be able to opt-out from the 48-hour working week, allowing for the working time to be extended based on an individual agreement with employees.
The law states that employees can 'choose' to work up to 65 hours a week, which in practise means that they will face the choice between doing so and not having employment.. This has been reported in the British press as "EU sets max work week at 48 hours, Britain keeps opt-out". Actually, British workers wouldn't experience much change because the New Labour government has always insisted on the Tory opt out clause. And you do have to sign the opt out agreement if you want to work for many big businesses, or even a temp agency. Many already work longer than 13 hours a day, including NHS workers, and Britain has long been the most overworked country in Europe. Nonetheless, the EU has set to level up, rather than levelling down, as the New Labour catechism has it. And this is a big set back for workers across Europe, especially for those in the labour movement who thought that the EU represented some kind of progress for workers. This offers Sarkozy a chance, for example, to further 'reform' the 35 hour week. He tried to slip out a suggestion that the 35 hour week would be abolished at the beginning of the year, but the uproar from unions forced him to back down. What Sarkozy has been unable to do by law, the employers will presumably try to do piecemeal.