Commission launches second-phase consultations on sectors excluded from working time Directive

In March 1998, the European Commission launched second-phase consultations with the social partners on working time in the sectors excluded from the 1993 working time Directive. This follows up consultations based on a White Paper published in July 1997.

On 31 March 1998, the European Commission launched the second phase of consultations with the EU-level social partners on the content of future legislation to amend the EU Directive on certain aspects of the organisation of working time (93/104/EEC). The aim is to include sectors and activities so far excluded from the Directive (air, rail, road, sea and inland waterway transport, sea fishing, offshore workers and doctors). The European intersectoral social partner organisations - the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (UNICE), the European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation and of Enterprises of General Economic Interest (CEEP) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) - are invited to negotiate framework agreements in this area which may lead to the formulation of a Community Directive.

This second phase of consultations follows on from the White Paper on sectors and activities excluded from the working time Directive published by the Commission in July 1997 (EU9707138N). In the light of the reactions received from the social partner organisations, the Commission is proposing a differentiated approach to extend the provisions of the 1993 Directive to non-mobile workers in the sectors concerned. It would also guarantee all mobile workers and those involved in offshore activities a sufficient rest period and limits to the number of hours worked each year. Four weeks' annual paid leave and health assessments for night workers would be guaranteed to all workers in excluded sectors.

Responding to the White Paper, UNICE argued that there was no need for further EU legislation, as all Member States have some form of legislation to provide protection in relation to working time. However, if the Commission wants to move forward, UNICE advised the adoption of non-binding instruments based on a sector-specific approach, having regard to the views of employers in the relevant sectors. ETUC supports the differentiated approach proposed by the Commission. CEEP shares this view in relation to rail, urban and air transport, and believes that the sector-specific provisions should be negotiated with the sectoral social partners.

The social partners have six weeks from the launch of the second-stage consultations to submit their opinions and announce their intentions on whether or not to undertake negotiations.

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