Friday, April 03, 2009

Long Live the Opt Out!

Yesterday, Conservative MEPs actually did something useful. They walked out of talks on the British opt out on the Working Time Directive. The collapse of the talks means that the British opt out remains in force. Conservative Home has the report.

Shane Greer eloquently explains that if he wants to work more than 48 hours a week, no diktat from Europe is going to stop him (as if I would ever make him. Perish the thought). Of course employees deserve to be protected by unscrupulous employers, but this is something for national governments to regulate, not the European Commission. John Major fought hard to win this opt out. Even many Labour MPs acknowledge that Britain should retain it.

If British workers want to work overtime, it is a matter for them. As Shane says...
I’ve never actually understood the reasoning behind the directive. Why should someone be restricted from working the hours they want to, or indeed need to? Looking at my own work for example the fact is that if I were restricted to working 48 hours a week the job simply wouldn’t get done. Does that annoy me? No. I enjoy my job. Who are they to say I have restrict the time I spend doing something I love? And even if I were forced by circumstance to work more than 48 hours, who are they to say I have to take a cut in the pay I need?

Long live the opt-out.


Damon From Birmingham said...

In a time of recession like this the EU should be ENCOURAGING people to work longer not shorter hours to get the economy back on track. Tying businesses and employees hands like this will only make the recession last longer.

The Boiling Frog said...

Of course the irony of the EU politicians working until past 4am to try to reach a deal to limit the working hours of ordinary people will be lost on them

Thatsnews said...

Good on them!

I regularly work 60 to 70 hours a week. It's the nature of my job. I don't have to, I want to.

Batteredstrat said...

The point was simply to create more jobs, less economically. Take away flexibility all across the EU, and nobody can compete, therefore equality exists.

If during busy periods, every employee is working overtime (and filling their boots), then the EU sees that as the chance to force an extra employee into the system. Therefore less overtime, less flexibility, more paperwork, more central control, more employment taxes.

Will said...

Like everyone here, I support the opt-out.

I don't understand the case against the opt out. Could someone enlighten me?

Conand said...

That's not what Shane Greer says privately. Here's a quote,

'As an employer Dale is a disgrace. If he was operating a sweatshop in Shenyang with these working conditions he'd be dragged out into the street by the police and shot.'

only kidding. Heehee

Dick the Prick said...

There's been quite an interesting debate in the Medicine Balls column in private eye simmering for a while: ofcourse it should be national parliament - but some kind of safeguards should be available in a pragmatic circumstances where 'elf 'n' safety is crucial.

Simon Gardner said...

These working hours limits are not really about the self-determining people who actually like their jobs in any case. They are really about the powerless.

(OK they are a bit about that great Tory shibboleth - “the family”.)

Colin said...

"I’ve never actually understood the reasoning behind the directive."

The reasoning was very simple. If you restrict the length of the working week, you need more employees to carry out the work. A classic piece of socialist nonsense, thought up by a political class totally ignorant of the realities and dynamics of the wealth producing sector.

Plenty said...

Lucky for Shane Greer he enjoys his job, most, I would have thought of the hardworking British people hate theirs. He is one of the luckier ones. I love my job even though I am not getting paid for it, (yet)

Those who love doing what they are doing are in the minority.

Oldrightie said...

"OK they are a bit about that great Tory shibboleth - “the family”.)

As opposed to that Socialist shibboleth "The State".

davidc said...

oldrightie@ - 'As opposed to that Socialist shibboleth "The State".

shum mishtake, shorly this should read 'hard working families'?

as opposed to bone idle families living off taxes paid by those working rather more than 48 hours a week

Malcolm Redfellow said...

If I understand your essential point, it is that somehow the Tory MEPs vacating the premises achieved the result. What about the continued resistance from the UK government (over-riding TU opposition), who stayed in their seats and won game, set, though not yet match?

The empty-seat tactic (© John Major) is not one which worked then or now.

By the way, can you consider the consequences if/when the BNP win their two seats in the Euro-elections (see Michael White in the New Statesman this week). You've already got Hannan and Helmer in bed with the "Non-inscrits", who include Ashley Mote and Kilroy-Silk (retired, hurt) and, notably Le Pen's shower. You're out of the EPP-ED (which is not so much split as shivered). Farage and Sinnott are with I/D. Ireland's FF have just baled out of the UEN into the EWLDR Liberals. So where do the required 25 MEPs from seven states come from for Cameron's proposed Conservative Group? It all looks a mess to me.

DespairingLiberal said...

I am not sure that you understand the basic point of a single market Iain. If basic rules, like maximum working hours, are different in different countries, then the climate for operation of companies will be different and some will gain an unfair advantage over others.

I actually agree with you about the working time directive, which in many ways is silly, but I think you are just using issues like this as a cover for not saying that you really want an end to the single market and therefore either an end to the EU as a whole or withdrawal by Britain. Why don't you just say so?

Simon Gardner said...

Malcolm Redfellow said... “So where do the required 25 MEPs from seven states come from for Cameron's proposed Conservative Group? It all looks a mess to me.”

They don’t [come from anywhere]. After a suitable face-saving interval, the Tories will be back in the EPP.

DespairingLiberal said...

On Colin's point, there is actually quite good statistical evidence that during an economic upturn, employers will prefer when possible to go to existing employees for more overtime rather than hire new ones - this is of course down to the overall cost of new employees and the risk factors associated with them, such as difficulty in dismissing.

It is on the latter where employment policy should focus, since employers will tend to take more people on if they can sack them easily. A sensible government in a recession probably should restrict overtime to some limit, but it won't work unless combined with other flexible measures around dismissal and other labour costs.

Roger Thornhill said...

The directive is about levelling down and increasing "employment".

Bums on seats, dear boy, bums on seats.

Frankly, the Conservative MEPs should be fighting to opt out of the whole blinkin' shower that is the EU.

ukipwebmaster said...

It's nice they follow UKIP's lead.
Fruitcake anyone?

Twig said...

Dispairing Liberal...
"If basic rules, like maximum working hours, are different in different countries, then the climate for operation of companies will be different and some will gain an unfair advantage over others."

In that case, Polish plumbers ought to be forced to have ten tea breaks a day and knock off at half past three.

From what I've heard, diesel prices on the continent create a significant disadvantage to UK hauliers.

AD627 said...

"Of course employees deserve to be protected by unscrupulous employers"

Total crap. It's a market. People that don't like the demands that their employer makes of them are free to leave.

If this poxy government hadn't imposed and increased a NATIONAL minimum wage, if it hadn't increased national insurance rates and if it hadn't imposed a lot of ridiculously burdensome employment legislation, there would be a lot more jobs for people to move to.

DespairingLiberal said...

Twig - agree about the diesel prices - but that's a good example of where the Single Market is not being applied, as national governments are currently free within the EU to vary fuel tax rates above an agreed minimum.

no longer anonymous said...

"If basic rules, like maximum working hours, are different in different countries, then the climate for operation of companies will be different and some will gain an unfair advantage over others"

In which case it's an incentive for governments to promote business-friendly policies that boost the economy. If governments don't wish to do so then fine but I don't see why other countries should have to do the same.

"Twig - agree about the diesel prices - but that's a good example of where the Single Market is not being applied"

The idea of single market uniformity is ghastly. We should leave it at a free trade area and therefore allow consumers a variety of goods and services to choose from.

DespairingLiberal said...

No longer - if it's free trade, it's back to EFTA, when everyone complained like hell about the incredible unfairness of government-subsidised industries like the german and french ones. It led to demands for a single market, which is what we have now.

graybo said...

Twig/DespLib - part of the problem with insisting on uniform fuel duties across the EU is that prices naturally vary according to exchange rates. The only way to get rid of that is to insist that all EU member states join the euro (something that I would support). As it is now, when I drive to clients in FR, BE and NL, I find fuel cheaper here than there, not because the price has changed in those countries, but because the GBP/EUR exchange rate has changed.

On the WTD, employers need to take care about asking employees to work more than 48 hours a week due to corporate manslaughter rules and related legislation. If I, as an employer, ask an employee (which would include myself as company director) to drive or operate machinery when tired because I'd asked them to work 50 or 60 hours, and an accident resulted from that, then the victim/their family could sue not only the driver/operator but also their employer. Which seems right to me (witness recent case on the south coast involving crane operator and fatal accident).

Twig said...


Fuel Duty
That's interesting. If our fuel duty is approx double the EU average (excl. UK), how do we manage to sell fuel cheaper than the continent? Bearing in mind that oil is priced in USD and the GBP has declined by 25% vs. the dollar, while the euro has appreciated vs. dollars.
Are we just more efficient than the continental europeans?

What is the GBP equiv price you pay over there?

This could get quite involved. If we want to remove all possible causes of accidents from the workplace, where do we stop? How about someone who's been out all night partying? Should they be assessed for their ability to operate machinery? If so do they still get paid if they fail the test? Do we need to test them every morning?
Whereas an assistant in a shop or an MP putting in an extra hour checking their expense claims would probably not present a huge health and safety risk, but on the upside the extra hour spent by the MP might avoid them accidentally claiming their own personal expenses from the already overburdened taxpayer.

I think the real problem here is that because of taxation it is prohibitively expensive to employ people so we in the private sector tend towards undermanning, which itself can lead to dangerous practices.
I would rather see less tax on jobs than more regulations.

WV: whinges (truly)