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Procedure : 2003/2165(INI)
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Document selected : A5-0026/2004

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PV 09/02/2004 - 12

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PV 11/02/2004 - 5.6

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Texts adopted
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Wednesday, 11 February 2004 - Strasbourg
Organisation of working time

European Parliament resolution on the organisation of working time (Amendment of Directive 93/104/EC) (2003/2165(INI))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to Council Directive 93/104/EC of 23 November 1993 concerning certain aspects of the organization of working time(1), as amended by Directive 2000/34/EC(2),

–   having regard to having regard to its resolution of 7 February 2002 on the Commission report: "State of implementation of Council Directive 93/104/EC" of 23 November 1993 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time ('Working Time Directive')(3),

–   having regard to the Commission communication of 30 December 2003 concerning the re-exam of Directive 93/104/EC concerning certain aspects of the organization of working time (COM(2003) 843),

–   having regard to the Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers,

–   having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union(4),

–   having regard to the ILO Convention C001 dating back to 1919 establishing the 48-hour working week and the 8-hour working day,

–   having regard to Council Recommendation 75/457/EEC of 22 July 1975 on the principle of the 40-hour week and the principle of four weeks" annual paid holiday(5),

–   having regard to Rule 163 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities (A5-0026/2004),

A.   whereas the Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers states that the completion of the internal market must lead to an improvement in the living and working conditions of workers in the European Community,

B.   whereas Article 136 of the Treaty establishes social provisions and Article 137 provides that, with a view to achieving the objectives of Article 136, the Community must support and complement the activities of the Member States as regards the protection of workers" health and safety,

C.   whereas Directive 93/104/EC states that the objective of workers" health and safety cannot be subordinated to purely economic considerations and that this objective also makes it necessary to place some control on weekly working hours,

D.   whereas Directive 93/104/EC stipulates that the provisions laid down in Article 17(4) and in Article 18(1)(b)(i) concerning the reference periods for the maximum weekly working time and derogation from these provisions via individual opt-outs should be reviewed before the expiry of a seven-year period from the deadline for transposing the directive by the Member States, in other words, by 23 November 2003,

E.   whereas by that date, the Commission should have forwarded to Parliament and the Council a communication with an assessment report on these matters and a proposal for re-examining the provisions concerned,

F.   whereas in its recent abovementioned communication the Commission does not put forward specific proposals on either of the above two matters,

G.   whereas, according to the abovementioned communication, the Commission is planning to consult Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, and the social partners on possible revision of the text of the directive in order to allow for the impact of recent Court of Justice rulings on the concept of working time and for new developments making for a better balance between working and family life,

H.   whereas one of the Union's objectives set out in the draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe is to work for a social market economy that is highly competitive, while aiming at full employment and social progress,

I.   whereas Article 31 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union provides that every worker has the right to working conditions which respect his or her health, safety and dignity, to the limitation of maximum working hours and to daily and weekly rest periods, while Article 33 speaks of the reconciliation of family and professional life,

J.   whereas some Member States have extended or wish to extend the reference periods for calculating the maximum weekly working time,

K.   whereas one of the Union's objectives set out at the Lisbon European Council of 23 and 24 March 2000 is to make the EU the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based market in the world by 2010; and whereas the report of the Employment Task Force has emphasised that the Lisbon employment targets will not be met unless Member States take more positive action to promote flexibility (especially for SMEs),

L.   whereas Directive 93/104/EC enables the working week to be regulated more flexibly, and gives a special role to negotiated flexibility arranged via collective agreements between social partners,

M.   whereas the technique of using long reference periods means that the limitations imposed by Directive 93/104/EC now apply to the maximum, quarterly, half-yearly or annual working time,

N.   whereas the study carried out for the Commission by Barnard, Deakin and Hobbs of Cambridge University shows that the use of the individual opt-out allowed by the United Kingdom is a result partly of employees choosing to work longer hours in order to secure higher pay and partly of the UK's difficulties in being able to take advantage of other instances of flexibility provided for in the Directive; whereas this may have serious consequences for the health and safety of more than four million workers, together with a method of implementing the directive which makes it difficult to be certain that free and voluntary choices can be made,

O.   whereas other countries have introduced or announced the introduction of opt-outs to deal with questions relating to specific categories of worker, such as the health professions in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, or the hotel and catering industry in Luxembourg,

P.   whereas sufficient evidence has been built up over the seven-year period to prompt the conclusion that while the use of the opt-out mechanism has been one way to achieve flexibility in the working week, as well as extra take-home pay for workers, this must respect the objective of improving health and safety at the workplace and reconciling family and professional life for millions of European workers,

Q.   whereas if the use of opt-outs is extended in the current Member States and the applicant countries, the aims of Directive 93/104/EC could become weakened,

R.   whereas serious impact studies are needed on the effects of new interpretations of working time for health workers who are on call at their workplace, and solutions other than the use of individual opt-outs must be found unless such opt-outs are truly voluntary,

S.   whereas restricting working hours, with the flexibility provided by Directive 93/104/EC, can provide an important health and safety benefit for workers and an opportunity to improve productivity and to rationalise and modernise the organisation of work,

T.   whereas the Lisbon objectives, in particular greater labour market participation of women and older workers, are not served by long working hours, but instead by extending the possibilities for workers to be genuinely free to choose to adapt working time to their needs,

U.   whereas the duration and organisation of working time must allow for the sociological changes in European society and the need for greater equality of opportunity for men and women as well as for the increased presence of women on the labour market; and considering that women, as primarily responsible for childcare, are disadvantaged in their own career progression; it is therefore necessary to remove the obstacles making it difficult to reconcile family and working life and promote the advantageous flexibility needed,

1.  Deplores the fact that the Commission has submitted the required assessment report after the seven-year deadline for review laid down in Article 17(4) and Article 18(1)(b)(i) of Directive 93/104/EC and that the report does not set out clear options for resolving the problems identified; calls on the Council to ask the Commission to consider an amended directive as soon as possible; welcomes the conclusion in the recent Commission communication that the approved approach should give workers a high level of health and safety protection, make it easier to reconcile work and family life, give firms and Member States flexibility in the way they manage working time and avoid imposing unreasonable constraints on firms, especially SMEs;

2.  Adds that alternatives to legislation should also be considered, given the declared objectives of the Commission's Better Regulation Action Plan;

3.  Insists that a full business impact assessment in the Member States affected should be completed before any changes to the current opt-out arrangements in the Directive are finalised;

4.  Highlights the specific importance of addressing the problems relating to availability and financing in the health sector arising from the Court of Justice's interpretation of the concept of working time in the SIMAP and Jaeger cases(6); however, regrets that it cannot examine, for each working sector, the effects on the economy and society, without any official comparative studies; notes that the Commission's communication only mentions some rough indications of possible consequences in a few Member States;

5.  Calls on the Commission to advance the formal process of social partner discussion which has now begun and calls on the Commission to consider positively, when responding to the first stage of the consultation process, the legislative process provided for in Article 139 of the Treaty as a means of facilitating agreement and a possible resolution of the issues raised by the Court's judgments regarding the definition and calculation of "on-call stand-by" hours at the workplace and the period within which the compensatory rest period must be granted;

6.  Acknowledges the fact that the Commission on different occasions has expressed its concern about the reactions of the Member States to the judgments of the ECJ but deplores the fact that the Commission did not manage to carry out, in the three years after the SIMAP ruling, an in-depth study on the consequences of these judgments for the Member States or to find transitional remedies,

7.  Calls upon the Commission to draw up a study as to what effects derogations on maximum working time (Article 6 of Directive 93/104/EC) have on the health and safety of workers;

8.  Regrets the reluctant attitude of the Commission following the SIMAP ruling, which has led to a lack of clarity regarding the consequences of the ruling in a number of Member States and even, for example in the Netherlands, to government plans to abolish all working time rules above the minimum standards required by European law and international conventions;

9.  Draws attention to the requests it made in its abovementioned resolution, which calls for a thorough review to make the provisions of the directive clearer and more consistent;

10.  Requests that any initiative in this field be based on the premise that the health and safety of workers must take precedence but should be looked at alongside the reconciliation of family and professional life and any considerations of an economic nature;

11.  Looks to the Commission to refrain from taking any initiatives serving to "renationalise" the European Working Time Directive;

12.  Calls for an EU-wide Member State comparison study into the repercussions of working long hours on the family and health and the effect on both sexes;

13.  Stresses that the way in which the working week is regulated in a revised directive must take due account of the requirements of European firms and their need for flexibility and that a revised directive must also take due account of this need;

14.  Stresses that the existence of standards and regulatory protection in such sensitive areas is vital for as long as the two sides of industry have no universally binding rules to govern them;

15.  Calls for the revision, with a view to the phasing-out, as soon as possible, of the individual opt-out provided for in Article 18(1)(b)(i); in the meantime, calls on the Commission to identify practical ways of tacking potential or actual abuses of the opt-out provision including seeking views on how best to strengthen the voluntary nature of the opt-out;

16.  Calls on the Member States to await a revised version of the directive and not to make excessive use of the derogation provided for in Article 18(1)(b)(i) and not to misuse it to cater for the apparent problems caused by the Court of Justice's interpretation of working time for on-call stand-by hours at the workplace in the health-care and other sectors; suggests that the Member States exchange information about already existing models and schedules that deal with stand-by service without conflicting with the normal rules of the directive; urges the Member States, together with the social partners in the relevant sectors, seriously to look for alternative solutions within the scope of the directive, which provides for other flexibility options that do not completely do away with any limitation on working hours and continue to provide for adequate protection; calls, in the meantime, on the Member States and employers to endeavour to ensure that workers subject to the derogation in Article 18(1)(b)(i) are not working excessively long hours and particularly not over prolonged periods;

17.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to promote an exchange of information about good practice within already existing models, which would highlight the scope for dealing with work-organisation problems resulting from the interpretation of the Court of Justice of working time for on-call stand-by hours at the workplace in the health sector by means of increasing recruitment, introducing new work practices and new patterns of working for different staff groups including, possibly, new ways of delivering health services, changing the number of medical rotas, developing multi-disciplinary teams, making more effective use of information technology and the possible extension of roles for non-medical staff;

18.  Calls on the Commission in the next stage of consultation to bring forward as a priority concrete proposals, within the framework of Directive 93/104/EC, for a long-term and sustainable response to the problems raised by the Simap and Jaeger judgments;

19.  Calls on the Commission to produce an additional communication containing a specific and reasoned statement of its attitude regarding all the provisions of the directive that may need to be revised, to examine solutions to re-establish in the framework of a revision of the directive clear obligations on employers properly to measure working time, and to submit its views to Parliament for consultation as soon as possible;

20.  Stresses that women are more likely to suffer negative effects on their health and well-being if they have to take on the double burden of working life and family responsibilities;

21.  Draws attention to the worrying trend of women working two part-time jobs, often with a combined working week that exceeds the legal limit, in order to earn enough money to live;

22.  Emphasises that the culture of long hours in higher professions and managerial jobs is an obstacle to the upward mobility of women and sustains gender segregation in the workplace;

23.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and Commission and the parliaments of the Member States and applicant countries.

(1) OJ L 307, 13.12.1993, p. 18.
(2) OJ L 195, 1.8.2000, p. 41.
(3) OJ C 284 E, 21.11.2002, p. 362.
(4) OJ C 364, 18.12.2000, p. 1.
(5) OJ L 199, 30.7.1975, p. 32.
(6) Case C-303/98 Simap [2000] ECR I-7963 and Case C-151/02 Jaeger [2003] ECR I-0000.

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