Safety concerns with EU proposals
In December 2008 the European Parliament voted to withdraw the UK’s opt-out of the Working Time Directive (WTD). If the opt-out is withdrawn, then this could have unfortunate health & safety implications for UK workers. The ability of companies to react to the cycles of the construction industry would be severely restricted, project costs would increase and construction programmes would be extended.
Although this removal of the UK’s opt out is put forward by the European Parliament as a health and safety measure, the fear is that it would in fact have a detrimental effect on health and safety. Pressure on both operatives and management for work to be completed in shorter periods of time would be intense and potentially lead to the ‘cutting of corners’. The British Government wants to keep the UK’s greater flexibility with the opt-out and ministers are in talks with their European counterparts in a process called ‘conciliation’.
BCSA is lobbying for the opt-out retention as it allows employees, such as steel erectors, to work more than an average of 48 hours, if necessary and if they so choose, in a more planned and safe way in order to meet clients’ construction programmes.
Simon Boyd of John Reid & Sons (Strucsteel), said: “Our industry is one in which in good times and bad, work fluctuates and we have to be left free to safely work within the current limitations for working hours to be able to compete in a global market. We have been polling our workers and those of our subcontractors and some 94% want to keep the opt out”.