Προδημοσίευση από το TAKE BACK YOUR TIME*
Working time has been a long-standing issue in the EU. The 1993 Working Time Directive stipulates that workers must not work more than an average of 48 hours a week, calculated over any four-month period. However it allows for broad derogations since social partners are able to agree on 'flexible arrangements' if granted approval by the employer. This means that workers could effectively put in up to 60-65 hours per week. The clause was one of the UK government's main demands, while Spain and other nations, including Greece, lobbied heavily against it, followed by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), national Trade Unions and NGO’s promoting worker’s rights.
During the nineties, following a number of European Court of Justice Rulings, it was made clear that the 1993 Directive had to be revised. The European Commission presented its proposal for a revised directive in May 2004, but member states only managed to reach a compromise on the issue in June 2008 by strengthening the institutional framework for wide national opt-outs from the agreed EU-wide 48-hour working week. The scene was then set for the European Parliament to take action.
The European Parliament's employment committee rejected the compromise at first reading on 20 October 2008, demanding that opt-outs must lapse three years after the directive's entry into force. This position, which upholds the 48-hour working week and recommends the abolition of all exceptions, was on 17 December upheld by an absolute majority in the European Parliament.
This was a great victory for the European Parliament, hailed by the Trade Unions, NGO’s and netroot activists like our organisation, Generation 700 euros -G700 from Greece, who lobbied in favor of strengthening safeguards of the 48 hour working week within the EU.
Our position to the issue has been that a 60 to 65 hour working week might be a legitimate right for business owners as well as a matter of free choice for CEO’s, the so called “golden boys”, but it cannot be forced down the throat as common working practice for the majority of European workers. And this is exactly what’s happening through the EU-wide institutionalisation of national opt-out clauses.
Far from it. In response to the EU Parliament’s decision, national governments and the Commission maintained their position that certain opt-outs should be allowed. What did happen in
However this argument makes no economic sense. In times of slowing growth and recession, when demand is not big enough to make use of all available productive capabilities in the economy, the last economic policy priority, which can give the market a boost, is work for more hours. What Europe really needs in order to deal with the coming global slump is deal with the credit crunch, expand micro-credit for small and medium sized business, cut down on consumption excesses and redirect investments on infrastructure (especially to the South and the East) as well as the environment, make better use of its knowledge worker capital, create a new market ethos.
*TAKE BACK YOUR TIME is a major U.S./Canadian initiative to challenge the epidemic of overwork, over-scheduling and time famine that now threatens our health, our families and relationships, our communities and our environment.
The above article was written after an invitation by John De Graaf, Executive Director of Take Back Your Time and author of the book Affluenza: The All Consuming Epidemic.
What are you doing with your time?