MEPs vote to impose 48 hour working week

By Becky Paskin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, United kingdom

MEPs vote to impose 48 hour working week
British workers may soon be limited to working 48 hours per week, after MEPs voted against keeping the UK’s opt-out clause

Hospitality workers may have to limit their hours to just 48 per week by 2011, after MEPs voted to scrap the UK’s opt-out of the working time directive.

The vote at the European Parliament is another step toward scrapping workers rights to work more than 48 hours per week, a move that has come against a fierce backlash from British industry members.

John Cridland, deputy director-general of the CBI, said the MEP’s vote is ‘misguided’, and only seeks to ‘replace opportunity with obstruction.’

“In the current downturn, a family might depend on one parent being able to work extra hours if the other loses their job,” he said. “They should be able to do so if they choose. We hope the Council of Ministers stand firm against these amendments and back the compromise agreed in June in which the opt-out was retained.”

A spokesperson for the British Hospitality Association, said they are `disappointed` with the verdict, believing workers are entitled to choose to work overtime. "The decision will be very difficult (and expensive) to operate in an industry such as hospitality which is a 24/7 industry," he said. "The only consolation is that it now goes into a conciliation process in Brussels, with more discussion, so we await the outcome of that early next year."

Despite agreeing in June of this year to let the UK keep its opt-out clause, businesses may in three years face a limit on how many hours their staff can work.

The vote comes as a welcome move by the GMB however; who claim the opt-out has killed several UK citizens in the past. “We are going to hear siren voices telling us that this has nothing to do with health & safety,” said Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary. “GMB’s answer is to try telling that to the families of the people who were killed.”

In 1993 the working time directive opt-out was granted by the Conservative government, a clause that is used by many member states for certain professions, but the UK is the only country to have opted out of it altogether.

Related topics: Legislation

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