Wednesday, December 05, 2007

UK Blocks EU efforts to broaden benefits for temporary workers

Source: UK Blocks EU Drive for temps' job rights

Gordon Brown only narrowly avoided being outvoted on a draft directive that would award temporary workers full pay after six weeks. Britain was among only a few states opposing the directive, perceiving it as an imminent threat to its flexible labor markets. Although it appeared at one point that the ministers would obtain the broad consensus necessary to pass the law with a qualified majority, Portugal, chair of the meeting, said that such an agreement was not possible and opted against a vote. This failed legislation is illustrative of the underlying divisions in Europe over social laws.
British employers praised Brown’s success. Business leaders in London argued that the law would impose extra costs on employers as well as making work less flexible. The CBI employers’ body argued that this legislation would result in the loss of a quarter of million UK jobs. A majority of British employers support an award of full pay for temporary workers after a period of six months, rather than six weeks.
The unions, however, expressed “real anger” that the UK government played such a pivotal role in blocking the progress of this proposed legislation. Currently, Britain and the unions are engaged in a long-running dispute regarding the union’s maximum 48-hour work week. It is possible that protecting Britain’s exemption to the work week maximum may require an acceptance on the proposed rights of temporary workers. However, at this point, union leaders say that such a coercive agreement would be “ a terrible way to do business.”

Questions for Discussion
1. Are the ongoing negotiations with the unions likely to force Britain to agree to increase benefits for temporary workers?

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