15 November 1996

NFU lashes Euro-court ruling while TGWU welcomes it…

EUROPEAN Court of Justice demands that the UK fall in line with the rest of Europe and impose a maximum 48-hour working week were vigorously attacked by the NFU this week.

The ruling on the European Commissions working times directive, which the UK has to implement by Nov 23, led the NFU to call on government to fight for the maximum number of derogations from the directive.

As well as imposing a maximum 48-hour working week, the directive also demands three weeks holiday entitlement, an 11-hour break between shifts, a rest break after six hours work and a 24-hour period away from work in the week.

Sir David Naish, NFU president, said the ruling would have a serious impact on livestock and arable businesses, particularly during key farming periods such as lambing and harvesting.

"This inflexible framework does not take into account the variable hours farmers have to work when milking cows and harvesting crops.

"We will be lobbying the government for the maximum number of derogations, particularly on rest breaks and during rest periods," added a spokesman.

Ruling welcomed

But Barry Leathwood, Transport and General Workers Union agricultural spokesman, welcomed the ruling. "It has given the worker the right to say no to demands of additional work."

Mr Leathwood acknowledged that during peak seasonal times farmworkers should be able to work more than 48 hours, but he said it was time to stop the abuse of power among some employers.

"We need to negotiate proper arrangements between workers and employers. When there is abuse, we should stamp on it," he added.

EU social affairs commissioner Padraig Flynn said he was delighted by the courts ruling against the UK which would ensure employees would not suffer ill-health by working excessively long hours without rest.

"The working time directive is a flexible instrument. It is pro-health and safety, pro-employment and pro-family."

Tony McDougal

Barry Leathwood – EUruling gives workers the right to say No to additional work.

Sir David Naish – EUruling will have a serious impact on farming businesses.