Today members of the European Parliament showed us just how much power the EU juggernaut can wield over its members and ultimately its citizens. MEPs voted 421-273 to scrap Britain’s opt-out from the maximum 48-hour working week. The 48-hour limit already exists in many EU countries, such as France, where market flexibility is perhaps not as important as workers rights. The bill was pushed through the EP after many doctors across the EU have filed lawsuits against hospitals for not complying with rulings from the European Court of Justice regarding working-time limits. This is a clear demonstration of the ECJ’s increasing role in European integration, however indirectly.
The working week limit will surely benefit doctors, teachers and other over-worked public servants, but it will not help graduates and young professional couples who need to work 55 hours a week in order to pay their mortgage. Some may argue that people should not work more than 48 hours for their own health and piece of mind, but if they choose to work so many hours, then so be it – more work can only benefit the economy at large.
15 EU countries, including the UK, are beneficiaries of the opt-out, so it is unlikely that an agreement will be reached between the EP and the Council of Ministers. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the European project, but it’s frightening that in an economic climate such as this, the European Union can have so much control over our right, our need even, to go out and earn a bit of extra dosh. Even more frightening is the fact that Gordon Brown clearly has no control over British MEPs, many of whom are Labour. Tory MEP Philip Bushell-Matthews summed up Big G’s failures quite nicely in today’s Guardian:
“This is a double failure of Gordon Brown. Not only has he failed to control his MEPs, but he also naively signed up to a package deal that saw Britain give ground on the agency workers directive in exchange for our working time opt-out.
His folly was to assume the left in the European parliament would not sabotage the deal. British businesses have been given two damaging pieces of employment legislation for the price of one”.
This post was written my Kathryn Woodroof, BULS member