Dutch Presidency urges for more flexibility in the European Working Time DirectiveComments Off on Dutch Presidency urges for more flexibility in the European Working Time Directive

At the first Informal Social Council of the Dutch Presidency, the ministers of Social Affairs and Employment of the 25 member states met on 8-10 July in Maastricht, NL. Chaired by the Dutch minister Aart-Jan De Geus, the ministers agreed that the new European Social Policy Agenda should concentrate on the aims formulated in the Lisbon-Strategy. The main aims for this set of guidelines for social and employment policy were identified in raising the level of knowledge and skills of working population, increasing participation in the labour market (up to 70%) and reinforcing social cohesion. Adequate responses should be found with regards to the ageing population and the effect of globalisation, especially in the light of the disappointing economic growth.

Already with the start of the EU Presidency the Dutch government announced to push for a more flexible EU working time directive (93/104/EC). In a radio interview on 7 July 2004 the Dutch Minister for Social Affairs Aart-Jan De Geus stated that his government calls for a decentralized system in which each member state should be able to come to an own definition of working time. To retain the current so-called “opt-out” would also be a valid option. According to Dutch officials they would try to speed up the process to have it finalized during the Dutch presidency. This will be done by urging the Commission to prioritize the directive and by putting the Commission proposal immediately on the agenda of the member states.

During a Troika meeting with the social partners in Maastricht, the European Commissioner for Social Affairs, Stavros Dimas, declared that a new proposal on the reform of the directive should be issued by the European Commission in late September.

Having priority in proposing new legislation in the social arena, the social partners failed to come to a proposal as UNICE, the Union of Industrial and Employers’ Confederations of Europe, and UEAPME, the European Association of Craft, Small & Medium Enterprises, decided not to start negotiations with ETUC, the European Trade Union Confederation. Due to the social partners’ failure to come to an agreement by 6 July, the European Commission will now try to find an acceptable proposal for both sides. Thereafter the European Parliament will have to develop an opinion on the proposal. According to Dutch officials the new working time directive could already be finalized in December.

For further information please visit:

Dutch Presidency (official website)

Informal Council on Employment and Social Policy 8-10 July (press release)

ETUC WTD (press Release)

ETUC Memorandum for the Dutch Presidency

UNICE expectations from the Dutch Presidency (press release)