European Parliament praised for 'resolve and principles' as Working time negotiations End with no agreement

Working time DEC 08 Strasb CFP SH AC SMALL copy-2
Press Communication

(28 April, 2009) The Conciliation Committee, set up to find a compromise on working time between Parliament and Council, met for the last time last night. Talks concluded without an agreement being reached. The sticking points were the opt-out, on-call time and multiple contracts.

“Despite the best efforts of the European Parliament delegation, it was not possible to reach an agreement that would have allowed the working time directive to play a meaningful role in protecting worker health and safety”, said EPSU General Secretary Carola Fischbach-Pyttel.

Council and Commission criticised

EPSU representatives criticised the Council of Ministers’ intransigence. “The refusal by Council representatives to even countenance an end to the individual opt-out undermined the talks from the start”, continued Ms. Fischbach-Pyttel, “If they had been serious about finding a compromise, they would have accepted that, with all the options put on the table by Parliament, there was simply no need to retain the opt-out clause”.

EP delegation leaders committed and principled

“The rapporteur, Alejandro Cercas (PES, Spain), deserves our thanks for his incredible work over the last five years. He has worked tirelessly to reach a compromise, while guarding the principle that a compromised agreement must be applicable to all workers”, said Ms. Fischbach-Pyttel. “While the unwillingness of the Council Presidency to compromise was sadly predictable, one also has to question the European Commission’s role as, self-styled, ‘honest-broker’. The European Commission intervened during the talks, but their proposals continued to ignore the Parliaments key issues”.

The European Trade Union Federation (ETUC), under the stewardship of confederal secretary Catelene Passchier, coordinated the political dialogue between workers and the institutions. The success of these communication channels helped strengthen the resolve of Parliament in negotiations.

The ‘shadow’ rapporteur Jose Silva Peneda (EPP-ED, Portugal) also deserves praise for his discipline and commitment to the European Parliament role. His diligence in keeping his party in the EP delegation on the same line, is good for the legitimacy of the European Parliament Institution.

Since there is no agreement, the current directive remains in force, although the Commission has the option of drafting a new proposal. Such new legislation would need to take account the rulings of the European Court of Justice on-call time. Of course it would be up to the European Parliament to continue its working time commitment, by making sure that an end to the individual opt-out was part of any new proposal.

EPSU remains committed to find a solution to working time arrangements, in particular in the area of on-call time in the work place, an issue that affects hundreds of thousands of our members.

EPSU is the recognised social partner in the hospital sector in the European Union.


For further information, please contact: Brian Synnott +32 474 98 96 75,

{EPSU is the European Federation of Public Service Unions. It is the largest federation of the ETUC. 8 million public service workers from over 200 trade unions are members. They organise workers in the energy, water and waste sectors, health and social services and local and national administration.

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