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Make or Break Talks on Working Week Stutter to a Halt

April 2, 2009 10:09 AM

Euro MPs and the representatives of EU Member States last night met to discuss EU working time rules in a formal conciliation committee meeting that went on until the early hours. In what was viewed by many to be make or break talks, no deal was reached.

The discussions come following a vote by the European Parliament in favour of proposals to scrap the opt-out from the 48 hour limit of the European Working Time Directive, currently being used by 15 Member States including the UK. Lib Dem Liz Lynne MEP, who is Vice President of the European Parliament's Employment and Social Affairs Committee and the only UK shadow rapporteur for the Working Time Directive for any political party, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe Group, has campaigned for years to keep the opt out and said today:

"Despite negotiations into the early hours, the only agreement was that there was no agreement. It is now extremely unlikely that a deal will be reached in the required time.

"I have always argued that the opt out of the 48hour limit in the Working Time Directive should be retained so long as it is truly voluntary. Workers should be allowed to earn overtime if they wish to.

"Scrapping the opt would push people into illegal work where they would not be covered by Health and Safety legislation including the dangerous machinery directive."

"For months now the Government has had to work with me on this as they couldn't get the support of their own MEPs; let us hope that the Government will continue to hold firm and maintain this opt out."

ENDS

Notes to Editors

Last nights conciliation meeting was the second meeting under the conciliation process, whereby the Parliament and the Council of Ministers has 6 weeks to reach an agreement on a revised text of the current working time directive. Discussions are due to continue to try and find a compromise.

Liz Lynne MEP is Vice President of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee in the European Parliament.