The GRTU as member of the MEUSAC core group has once again participated in today's core group meeting. The main point discussed was the reviewing of the Working Time Directive, Directive 2003/88/EC.
The Directive has been if force for the last 14 years and regulates the organisation of working time, it was however predominantly based more on the aspect of health and safety. In 2004, the Commission put forward a proposal to amend the Directive, however despite two readings and a conciliation process no agreement was reached; and in April 2009 the Council and Parliament concluded that they could not reach agreement on the proposal.
Nevertheless, the Commission still believes that a review of the Directive is necessary to take into consideration changes in working patterns over the last 20 years such as:
The general reduction in total working time: average weekly working hours in the EU have decreased from 39 hours in 1990 to 37.8 hours in 2006;
The polarisation of working time between groups of workers; between the increase of part-time workers, and the fact that 10 % of all employees still work more than 48 hours a week and nearly 7% of all employees work in multiple jobs; and the increasing variation of working times throughout the year or the working life, along with more flexible practices in companies (flexitime, annualisation of working hours, time banks, time credits, etc.).
Consequently, the Commission has adopted this Communication whereby it is requesting feedback from the European social partners. This Communication constitutes the first phase of consultation. After examining the views expressed during this first phase, the Commission will decide whether EU action is advisable. If the Commission decides that it is, it will launch a second-phase consultation of the social partners at EU level. That phase will cover the content of any proposal for action.
Moreover, in parallel with these consultations, the Commission will carry out an extensive impact assessment, including an examination of the legal application of the Directive in the Member States and a study of the social and economic aspects that are pertinent for a comprehensive review of the Directive.
The Commission will be conducting an impact assessment which we hope will constitute the basis for the second phase consultation. It was explained that it has also been discussed in the Employment relations board and that the social partners have a common position.
An issue of contention seems to be the voluntary Opt Out clause which is currently used by 5 Member States for all the sectors and by 10 Member States for limited sectors. When made available by the Member States this cause would give the opportunity to individuals to work more than the 48hr average. An important clarification made was that the Directive does not apply to self-employed, who are therefore free to work as long as they deem fit.