Magazine article European Social Policy

Road Transport : Ep Vote on Truckers' Working Hours Sparks Strong Reactions

Magazine article European Social Policy

Road Transport : Ep Vote on Truckers' Working Hours Sparks Strong Reactions

Article excerpt

The European Parliament's vote, on 16 June, to include self-employed operators in Directive 2002/15/EC on working time for drivers - and thus to bring them under the 48-hour work week rule - has unleashed a wave of reactions, in most cases very clear cut. The pro' and con' camps are flinging arguments of road safety, freedom of entrepreneurship, threats to employment and social dumping at one another.

The most closely concerned, the International Road Transport Union (IRU), "strongly condemns" a vote "to follow dogmatism instead of reason," which "threatens EU jobs and entrepreneurial spirit". For Alexander Sakkers, the chair of the IRU Liaison Committee to the EU, the EP vote totally disregards the road sector's real needs. It "will create a precedent to extend such rules to the self-employed in other sectors too. The competitiveness of the whole European economy is therefore at risk". The UEAPME, which represents small and medium-sized enterprises, also speaks of a "dangerous, unacceptable precedent" that "may pave the way to similar restrictions in other sectors". Labour legislation is designed for relations between employers and employees, points out UEAPME General Secretary Andrea Benassi, and must not be imposed on self-employed persons. Both organisations find that self-employed persons' freedom to choose their own working hours is a question of principle. This principle was also defended by Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas during the debate that preceded the vote, on 16 June.

ROAD SAFETY

Another major argument is road safety. Opinions on the question differ drastically. It is the key argument of those opposed to exclusion: drivers who work without time limits are tired and consequently dangerous. The European Transport Workers Federation (ETF), which had a delegation on hand in Strasbourg all week, waived the spectre of some self-employed drivers working an 86-hour week. …

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