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Working time reforms slammed

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Tabled reforms for the Working Time Directive received a battering yesterday from employers’ organisation the CBI and the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

European Commissioners met in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss changes to the existing Working Time Directive. The proposed changes would give trade unions a veto over average working weeks of more than 48 hours in workplaces where they have bargaining powers.

The CBI have taken a firm stance, pledging to fight ‘tooth and nail’ against the proposals.

John Cridland, CBI Deputy Director-General, said: “It is good that the Commission is allowing the opt-out to remain, but it is quite wrong to give trade unions a veto over what should be an individual decision. The proposals would undermine the individual’s right to choose the hours they work.

Employers too are said to harbour concerns that the proposals will harm the flexibility of the UK labour market and despite the veto awarded to trade unions, TUC leader Brendan Barber has lashed out at the plans saying they don’t go far enough for workers calling upon the commission to drop them.

In a letter to the European Commission, Barber said: “We urge the commission to abandon their current proposals to enable further consultation with unions and employers as neither are content with what is on the table.”

“UK workers are going to be left exposed to dangerous long-hours working by these weak reforms to our weak working time protections.”

If parties reach agreement, working hours would be capped at 65 hours a week and only be valid for a 12 month period.

In a concession to employers, the Commission said businesses would be able to extend the period for calculating working hours from four months to a year.

In the recently published 2004 CBI-Pertemps employment trends survey 72% of employers said losing the individual opt-out would have some impact on their businesses while just under half of firms said it would have either a severe or significant negative impact.

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Annie Hayes

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