Eu directives on working hours and temporary work

Bad German laws become EU law

The talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel and French head of state Nicolas Sarkozy were not the only time that steps backwards in European policy were sold as successes. While Straubing in Bavaria was about the right of the German car industry to undermine climate protection with high-horsepower carbon dioxide guzzlers, in Luxembourg labor law was created that legalizes 24-hour shifts and 66-hour work weeks.

This just in the moment in which the Hamburg labor lawyer Udo Mayer describes in the technical periodical labor law in the enterprise the consequences, which the 4 years ago "reformed" German working time law in the area of on-call services has. What now appears as European law is essentially the reaction of the German Schroder government to rulings of the European Court of Justice on on-call time and the EU Working Time Directive 2003/88/EC that has been in force up to now.

In the Working Hours Act, which has been in force since 2004, the Europe-wide maximum working time limit of 48 hours per week is being massively undermined. On the one hand, employees can sign an agreement to work longer hours if on-call duty is a regular part of their job. An individual opt-out clause, which was actually only foreseen in the 1993 Working Time Directive for a trial period of maximum 10 years.

Worse, however, was the opt-out clause that allows collective bargaining partners to agree on longer working hours for on-call duties – the very rule that is now to become an EU directive! This is how the doctors’ association agreed "Marburg Federation" in 2007, collective bargaining rules allowing 18-hour workdays, 24-hour weekend shifts and weekly working hours of 66 hours. Corresponding preparatory work had already been done by the coarse union ver.di a year earlier.

And what applies to doctors, who at least still receive good money for their work, is now to become possible for firefighters, police officers and on-call workers in the retail sector, according to the will of EU Social Affairs Commissioner Vladimir Spidla. No wonder that, in addition to the socialist Spanish government, the European Trade Union Confederation is also protesting (although it has buried the regulation on temporary work).

And as in the case of working time, the German opt-out clause in temporary employment law is now becoming European law. And yet it is precisely here that we can observe how toothless unions in sectors with few members have to accept unilateral collective bargaining dictates from employers. In Germany, the employers’ threat of a change in the "christian" pseudo-trade union, that a collective bargaining union of the German Federation of Trade Unions reached agreements with 2 out of 3 employers’ associations that are only now slowly approaching the 7.50 euro hourly wage that the DGB is demanding nationwide as a minimum wage (the third, supposedly medium-sized temporary employment agency association nevertheless did not want to be held back from making agreements with the "christian" wages of less than 5 euros per hour to be agreed upon). Temporary workers are still much further away from equal pay for equal work than German female workers.

The result is German legislation that is detrimental to employees and effectively undermines more favorable EU directives. You will hear about European law in the ministerial meetings. And afterwards, it is easy to complain about the unsocial policy of the EU Commission.