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HVCA welcomes survival of opt-out

Talks have broken down over changes to the European Working Time Directive which could have led to the abolition of the UK opt-out.

The Heating and Ventilating Contractors' Association (HVCA) has welcomed the news as it was worried losing the opt out would damage the sector - particularly those delivering maintenance and facilities services.

Peter Rummer, head of employment affairs at HVCA, said: “This has been a long-running saga, but when the European Parliament voted last December in support of further restrictions on working time, it was clear that the crunch was approaching,

“I am convinced the fact that the association wrote to all the MEPs involved in the recent conciliation discussions – and to the permanent representatives of all 27 EU member states – has been very influential in achieving this very satisfactory outcome.

“It means that the existing Working Time Directive is unchanged and, in particular, that the opt-out remains intact.”

The opt-out allows individual workers to enter into an agreement with their employers which allows them to work more than the average 48 hours per week stipulated by the directive.

In December the European Parliament had called for the opt-out to be abolished which would have meant all “on-call” time would be categorised as working time.

Since then the Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of Ministers have been working to agree a way forward, but this process broke down this week without agreement being reached.

An HVCA survey in 2003 revealed 61 per cent of respondents employed operatives who had signed opt-out agreements that exempted them from the restrictions on their weekly working hours;

More than  80 per cent of respondents believed further restrictions  on working hours would lead to lack of flexibility and consequent  failure to meet deadlines

HVCA will continue to monitor any further proposals that might emerge from the European Commission.