New agreement on EU labour laws welcomed
The agreement sets the normal limit employees in the EU can work per week at 48 hours, but allows them to boost that limit to 60 hours if they choose to.11 June 2008
BRUSSELS - The European Commission on Tuesday welcomed the deal hammered out by European Union ministers on how many hours workers should work per week and how temporary staff should be treated.
The EU's Brussels-based executive "strongly welcomes" the compromise which ministers reached in the early hours of the morning, seeing it as a "significant breakthrough" after four years of deadlock, a commission spokeswoman said.
The agreement sets the normal limit employees in the EU can work per week at 48 hours, but allows them to boost that limit to 60 hours if they choose to sign a so-called "opt-out."
To protect the employee from abuse, the deal also says that they can only sign up to the extra hours once they have been in the job for a month, and that they cannot be sanctioned at work for refusing to sign the opt-out or for withdrawing from it.
The compromise also takes in the rights of temporary workers, insisting that they be given the same rights regarding pay, leave and maternity leave as full-time employees, and that they be informed about permanent job opportunities within the company.
Individual member states can, however, follow different rules both on the 60-hour limit and on agency workers if unions and employers agree to it.
The labour laws have been a bone of contention within the EU since they were proposed in 2004.
In their initial form, they pitted Britain, which wanted its workers to be allowed to work more than the 48-hour limit, against France, which had in 1998 banned workers from working more than 35 hours per week.
But an agreement on agency workers between British employers and unions in May, and the EU's subsequent decision to approve such agreements, paved the way for a general deal.
[dpa / Expatica]