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Workers in the north disenfranchised by British position on EU Working Time Directive

8 November, 2006


Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today said that workers in the 6 counties are being disenfranchised by the British Government's refusal to agree to any upper limit to the number of hours in a working week. Ms de Brún made her comments after the Finnish Presidency of the EU proposed that the absolute maximum working week for those using the opt-out would be from 78 hours to 60 hours.

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"The fact is that the maximum working week of 48 hours was already stipulated by the International Labour Organisation in 1919.

"The unwillingness of the British government to entertain any compromise on the EU Working Time Directive denies workers in the 6 counties protection from abusive employers and leaves the EU in an unsustainable situation whereby very real problems in certain sectors cannot be properly addressed.

"There are many problems with the proposal of the Finnish presidency, such as rest periods and the reference period for calculating the working time, which effectively worsens the situation for many workers throughout the EU.

"While recognising the difficulties of some sectors, such as the health service, to immediately adopt a 48 hour week, it is now time for the 6 counties to be allowed an "opt-out" from the British government opt-out from the Working Time Directive. The workers of the 6 counties should not suffer from the intransigent position of the British government. Working time provisions in the north should be brought into line with those in the south, while allowing those sectors with most difficulties a reasonable period of transition." ENDS

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