Conservatives walk out of Working Time talks
Posted, April 03, 2009 @ 10:00
Parliament and governments will not reach agreement on UK opt-out, Bushill-Matthews says
Brussels, 2nd April 2009 -- Attempts to reach a deal between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers on the UK's opt-out of the Working Time Directive failed last night, and Conservative employment spokesman Philip Bushill-Matthews MEP - who walked out of negotiations at 4am - has branded them a 'sham discussion going round in endless circles'.
It became clear at the meeting that neither the Council of Ministers nor the European Parliament negotiators were willing to offer concessions on their opposing positions. Up to 15 countries now take advantage of the opt-out, which a majority of MEPs - led by Labour employment spokesman, Stephen Hughes - voted to scrap last December.
Mr Hughes had proposed that a definitive date should be set for the opt-out to end, unless member states such as the UK can come up with reasons why it should stay. However, Mr Bushill-Matthews says the UK has over three million good reasons - the individuals who exercise their right to opt-out.
Conservatives have been vociferous campaigners for the right of British workers to work overtime to make ends meet, or to gain advancement in their careers.
There is talk of a possible further discussion in a few weeks but Mr Bushill-Matthews has said that it would be pointless unless there was something new to talk about.
Mr Bushill-Matthews said:
"It was totally predictable that these negotiations would come to a stalemate. It was a sham discussion going round in endless circles.
"It is a positive result because it means the UK opt-out will remain intact by default.
"Thankfully the Council of Ministers was not prepared to budge on its position. The political reality is that a majority of EU countries now want the right to opt-out of this duff directive.
"There now seems little point in us continuing talks when neither side is prepared to offer concessions.
"Labour MEPs had said that there needs to be a good reason why the UK government should keep the opt-out. I can give them over three million reasons: the people who already exercise their right to work overtime.
"The underlying problem of on-call time has still not been resolved. The Working Time Directive clearly cannot be reformed so surely it is time to go right back to the drawing board. I would be happy to sit down with the commission and work on such a proposal immediately.
"The breakdown in the talks is hopefully a victory for sanity. It is time for Labour MEPs to give up on their endless crusade to stop people choosing to work overtime, and finally move on."