Here’s the story from (forgive me) The Sun:
“Ministers want to scrap EU laws which limit the working week to 48 hours — costing the average family £1,200 in lost pay.
“The move would also be a boost to industry which loses billions of pounds bringing in agency staff to plug the gap.
“Brexiteers have gained widespread Cabinet support to axe the Working Time Directive as a first step when the UK is free from Brussels.
“Brexit-backing ministers will demand an end to the directive when the Brexit “war Cabinet” meets [today, December 18] to decide what to demand when trade talks begin next year.
“They say it will give millions of families the chance to top up their wages and help small firms eager to cash in on the new global trade market.”
More or less every word of the justification for ending the Working Time Directive is inaccurate.
The average family does not lose any pay because of the Working Time Directive. There is an opt-out which means, effectively, that employers can already ask employees to work extra hours – and mostly for no extra pay.
So companies don’t lose billions of pounds bringing in agency staff to replace current workers; as so many of the newly-employed are in part-time or zero-hours contracts, there is plenty of opportunity for firms to increase the hours worked by such employees, within the Working Time Directive. Why would they pay agency workers?
Take a look at this, from James O’Brien:
The working time directive ensures employees cannot be compelled to work more than 48 hours a week. Opting out is very easy. Newspaper journalists, for example, do it routinely so the deceit here must be deliberate. https://t.co/bidKcGksRd
— James O'Brien (@mrjamesob) December 17, 2017
This is confirmed by the EU Law Analysis website, which states:
“The article claims: “The Tories won an opt-out in 1993 but Labour MEPs voted to end the UK’s right to break the limit in 2003.” The first part of this sentence is accurate: the original Directive (amended to apply to more workers in 2000, then codified in 2003) gives each Member State the option to let workers decide to opt out individually of the usual average limit of 48 working hours a week, on the condition that they are not subject to any ‘detriment’ by the employer if they opt not to do so (see Article 22 of the 2003 version). Indeed, a study by Barnard, Deakin and Hobbs showed that as a result, the Directive had little impact on the UK’s long working hours.
“However, the second part of the sentence is highly misleading. Along with the rest of the article, it gives the reader the impression that each worker’s individual opt out to work over 48 hours a week on average no longer exists. This is not true… The UK is one of six Member States which allow workers in every sector of employment to choose to work extra hours. You can find the option in the UK’s Working Time Regulations, which transpose the Directive into UK law (it’s Regulation 5). In practical terms, a recent TUC analysis estimates that over 3 million UK workers work over the 48-hour average limit.”
The article adds that, contrary to the implied promise of extra pay in the Sun article, many of those additional working hours are unpaid.
In addition, the Working Rights Directive guarantees certain conditions without which employees may not be asked to work the extra hours:
- Daily working hours are limited to a maximum of 13;
- There must be a rest break if the working day is longer than 6 hours;
- Workers must get at least one day off a week;
- There are guarantees for night workers;
- And of course the Directive guarantees four weeks’ paid holiday every year, with no opt-outs or exceptions.
So there is absolutely no reason to ditch the directive, unless there is an ulterior motive that has been kept quiet.
As the EU Law Analysis article states: “Put simply, far from increasing workers’ pay, scrapping the working time Directive would reduce that pay for many of them.”
And consider this, from Jo Stevens MP:
There’ll be “no watering down of workers’ rights” said the Tories. Knew that was a lie. Gove & other ministers now saying scrap the Working Time Directive. This is just the beginning @The_TUC @TradeUnionGroup #ukemplaw https://t.co/qb6ZmFij6B
— Jo Stevens (@JoStevensLabour) December 16, 2017
The EU Law Analysis article quotes Theresa May’s Lancaster House speech setting out her Brexit policy:
“Point 7 reads: ‘…a fairer Britain is a country that protects and enhances the rights that people have at work. That is why, as we translate the body of European law into our domestic regulations, we will ensure that workers rights are fully protected and maintained.
“‘Indeed, under my leadership, not only will the Government protect the rights of workers set out in European legislation, we will build on them.’
“If the mooted plans go ahead, this would prove that the Conservative party’s pledge to retain all workers’ rights derived from EU law was worthless.” [Bolding mine.]
Already there is a petition calling on the Tory government to reaffirm its commitment to the rights enshrined in the Working Time Directive.
You can find it – and sign it – here.
If you’re not convinced yet, here are a few comments from Twitter to point you in the right direction:
Note how @TheSun class it as a boom rather than the scrapping of a workers right and a guard on health and safety. Typical tory mindset. Sod the workers, more money for fatcats! pic.twitter.com/38C6xTg1Eg
— Parliament View #WearAMask (@parliamentview) December 17, 2017
So this is what "taking back control" means? "Gove and other ministers will use tomorrow’s meeting to call for Britain to abandon the EU working time directive, which restricts the working week to 48 hours". https://t.co/088GxZ9HHD
— roger kline (@rogerkline) December 17, 2017
— Marcus Chown (@marcuschown) December 17, 2017
Hard right Tory ministers plotting to scrap the working time directive at tomorrow’s cabinet? Safe limits on working hours, right to breaks, holiday pay will all be at risk. The right of the Tory party have been after scrapping this directive for some time which protects workers.
— 🌈 Angela Rayner 🌈 (@AngelaRayner) December 17, 2017
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