EU fails to clinch deal on working hours

28th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

Talks on revising the maximum working time limits broke down again after five years of negotiations.

BRUSSELS – European Union nations failed Tuesday to reach a compromise on revising the bloc's maximum working time limits over differences on whether to end opt-outs on rules capping the work week at 48 hours.

After five years of negotiations, late night talks between the lawmakers at the European Parliament, EU governments and the European Commission broke down again.

The failure to reach a compromise means that it is impossible for lawmakers to consider the issue in parliament at a sitting in Strasbourg next week, the last time they meet before it is dissolved for elections in June.

The collapse of talks led to the different sides trading blame, with the EU's Czech presidency accusing lawmakers at the parliament of being inflexible ahead of the elections.

"MEPs were not willing to accept a deal that would ... improve the employees' situation, and, at the same time, lead to a more flexible labour market," said Czech Labour Minister Petr Necas in a statement.

EU Labour Commissioner Vladimir Spidla said he was "sorely disappointed" a compromise was not reached, explaining that EU lawmakers wanted a date for phasing out the opt-out from the maximum 48-hour work week, but European governments refused.

The opt-out is in particular widely used in Britain.

AFP / Expatica

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