|Author (Person)||Neligan, Myles|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.4, No.41, 12.11.98, p8|
|Content Type||Journal | Series | Blog|
THE European Commission will next week propose measures to bring the road haulage sector within the scope of existing EU laws governing employees' working hours.
The move follows the failure of transport company and trade union representatives to agree a voluntary deal earlier this year, sparking fears of further blockades by lorry drivers.
The Commission's proposal, which is due to be unveiled next Wednesday (18 November), aims to extend a degree of social protection to road haulage workers while ensuring a level playing field for European firms competing for business.
The initiative would set a maximum average working week of 48 hours for lorry drivers, calculated over a period of four months. EU governments would be entitled to extend this if it conflicted with existing national legislation or agreements between unions and employers, but they could not go beyond a limit of six months and no lorry driver would be allowed to work for more than 60 hours in one week.
The proposal would also widen the definition of drivers' working time to include many routine duties apart from driving which require the presence of the driver. These include security checks by customs, loading and cleaning duties.
However, where national legislation or industry agreements covering the definition of working time are already in place, these would take precedence. Breaches of the rules would be subject to penalties, to be decided by national governments.
"We hope to marry the twin aims of respecting the differences between national rules and safeguarding the health and safety of road hauliers, while reinforcing the competitivity of the road haulage sector," said an aide to Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock.
Recent EU legislation obliging governments to carry out random roadside tests, together with the introduction of new tamper-proof tachographs, would make it easier to enforce the proposed measures. Supporters of the proposal claim that it would make it impossible for self-employed hauliers to undercut established operators by driving for excessively long periods, eliminating much of the competitive pressure which analysts blame for the recent strikes. Commission officials believe the proposal is delicately balanced enough to win the support of unions, employers and most national governments.
EU transport ministers are due to hold discussions on the plan on 30 November, but an agreement is unlikely before the new year.
European lorry drivers' union FST (Fédération Syndicale des Transports), which had feared that the proposal would allow the average weekly working time to be calculated over 12 months, is cautiously optimistic. "This is an absolutely necessary health and safety measure. Our profession is misunderstood, thanks to a widespread view that driving a lorry is easier than more regular occupations," said FST spokeswoman Sabine Trier.
See Section 8.2 for main set of references related to European Commission proposals on working time for 'excluded sectors'
|Subject Categories||Mobility and Transport|