48 hour working time directive

So the European Parliament has voted that people shall not be allowed to work in the legitimate market economy for more than 48 hours a week.

Not, that is, if they are an employee.

The European Parliament has voted to force Britain to remove its controversial opt-out from the EU\’s weekly limit on working hours, striking a blow to the long-sought deal among the member states on the maximum amount of hours Europeans can safely spend at work.

The self-employed can of course continue to work whatever hours they desire. I certainly have no intention of bringing my working week down to 48 hours…..and what is my working week anyway? Is blogging work? It certainly leads to opportunities to do paid work. Is writing a freelance article work? I certainly get paid for it.

It\’s also worth noting that absolutely none of those in the Parliament who voted for this measure would admit to working as little as 48 hours a week. What with attending sessions, working in their constituency, going to this and that do with the Party, with donors, fact finding trips…..one rule for them and another for us, eh?

But there\’s also a horrible failure of logic in this decision. The hours we spend working in the legitimate market economy are not the only hours we spend working. We also spend considerable hours in household production. Cooking, cleaning, repairing the house, these sorts of things are still work, even though we don\’t get paid directly for them. And such household production is in many ways a substitute for market work. We can work the hours for pay, buy a takeaway….or we can not work the hours and use the time to cook at home, just as an example. Or iron shirts or employ someone to do that. Get a gardening service in or do it ourselves.

The mark of a liberal economic order would be that each person is allowed to decide that mix of market and household production for themselves. Yet here we have a division imposed from above.

"The democratic legitimacy of today\’s vote is beyond question," Carola Fischbach-Pyttel, secretary-general of the European Federation of Public Service Unions, commented following the vote.

We can argue about whether the EP is in fact democratic another day, but what this vote actually shows is what can go wrong with democracy. That it turns into the tyranny of the majority. Why should I not be allowed to decide my desired mix of market and household production, my work life balance, for myself? Why should anyone, whether elected or not, take it upon themselves to deny me that freedom?

In short, fuck \’em, the illiberal little shits.

15 thoughts on “48 hour working time directive”

  1. So what is the procedure for dealing with MPs, MEPs etc who exceed the required hours? Or are they regarded as self employed?

  2. and they really think they can con the Irish into a ‘yes’ vote on Lisbon by offering them opt outs? They are not worth the paper they’re written on.

  3. “Finally, the parliament reinforced its previous decision that the time spent on call by workers – particularly doctors, firemen or social workers – should be calculated as a proper “working time,” even if they are not called in to work.”


    You hear that loud whooshing noise? That’s the sound of petabytes of data leaving the EU to be maintained elsewhere.

    To put this into context, I used to get paid 1 hour for every 6 on call for some systems. The EU decision would mean that someone on call for a week would go from 35-40 hours pay for a week to 168 hours for a week, a quintupling of their pay. If you’ve got a team of 10 with 1 person on call, you’ve now increased that team’s costs by 10%, with no benefit to the client.

    Oh, and let’s not forget that we have the 3rd largest video games producing industry in the world, and that industry works by burning out, yet richly rewarding extraordinary young talent. Say goodbye to that. They’ll be off to the USA or Canada.

  4. We can argue about whether the EP is in fact democratic another day, but what this vote actually shows is what can go wrong with democracy. That it turns into the tyranny of the majority. Why should I not be allowed to decide my desired mix of market and household production, my work life balance, for myself? Why should anyone, whether elected or not, take it upon themselves to deny me that freedom?

    And so the mask slips and Tim is now railing against the democratic principle itself. How he reveals what we always suspected about the UKIP.

    The Working Time directive prevents EMPLOYERS requiring EMPLOYEES to work more than 48 hours a week. It does not prevent EMPLOYEES working more than 48 hours if they so desire.

    What can go wrong in a democracy is that some people might only accept majority rule only when they are (or feel they are) in the majority.

    Lets say for example that Timmy and the UKIP get their way and there is a vote on Britain’s membership BUT horror of horrors, the majority of voters vote to stay in the EU – is Timmy saying that he would campaign against the democratic principle itself and not accept “the tyranny of the majority”? I rather think he is.

    Is Timmy and the UKIP above the democratic principle. Curious minds wish to know….

    Tim adds: This isn’t the first time I’ve railed against the democratic principle and it won’t be the last. We have had, within the lifetimes of people still going, laws which say that those men who have sex with men should be jailed. This was democratic but not just. Going a little further back in history we said that those men who had sex with men should be hanged. Democratic but not just. We have had laws which jailed women who had abortions….some would say that while this was democratic it was not just.

    Democracy is, as Chruchill observed, the least bad system we have but that does not make it perfect.

  5. This is why democratic government needs to be constitutional, which is to say limited in scope. There are many areas of life into which it is not legitimate for a government to intrude under any circumstances.

    Since this is also true of any other form of government, this isn’t an anti-democratic point; it’s a point about government in general.

  6. australopithecus:

    Tim hasn’t quite got to the heart of the matter. (And the difference is critical to understanding the enormous schism we’d think of as the left-right divide or the one between “liberals” and “conservatives.” Further, a proper understanding can serve to lessen much of the rancor.

    Any form of government can be or become tyrannical. The sole superiority of democracy is that it permits regime change by peaceful means.
    Further (or, perhaps, as an outgrowth of the preceding), it allows to the defeated a more practical degree of hope to survive that they may, at the next election or the one after, get enough voters to “see things their way.”

    There is an enormous space between a state of anarchy in which no laws govern the behavior of individuals and its opposite–totalitarianism–in which all are subject to the will of a single dictator, triumvirate, or politburo. It is, I will submit to you, no exaggeration to maintain that the great majority of even those in varying degrees “on the left” insist that their program is the one more conducive to justice, material progress, creativity, and “human freedom.” And, quite symmetrically, those characterized as of the “right,” while paying lip service to
    freedom, yet espouse many forms of rigid control of personal behavior–as collectivist in approach as their reflection on the left–merely of different aspects of behavior.

    It would seem here that we’ve got “balance” as between the contending forces. We can have whatever the majority thinks it is that they want.
    But that’s illusory. While nations and human civilization can survive, prosper, and advance, by and large, despite many hamperings dear to the hearts of the “right” in the form of various regulations of personal behavior (and of which there are far fewer at present than formerly and which everywhere have been relinquished with some chagrin but relinquished nonetheless), the same is not true of the main, distinguishing program of the left: the control of the “economic” aspect of life.

    The plain fact is that there are no such things as unconnected economic phenomena. Every attempt to exert control of such an interconnected complex of behavior has inexorable consequences, most of which are unfavorable (for various reasons) from the point of view of those attempting that very control and immediately suggesting to those very same would-be controllers nothing less than further controls, all of which must repeat
    the same failure cycle until all-round control
    (totalitarianism) is achieved.

    But I cannot pretend to teach you Economics in a few minutes of writing and reading. If you want to know something about the topic, especially as relates to what I’ve argued, the matter is the subject of Friedrich Hayek’s THE ROAD TO SERFDOM. I’d also highly recommend Henry Hazlitt’s ECONOMICS IN ONE LESSON.

    The point is that these matters are not merely what they seem–alternatives to be chosen on the basis of personal preference. The outcomes are matters governed by laws every bit as rigid and unforgiving as those governing ideal gases or gravitational attraction: once cognizant of reality, almost nobody chooses the unsuccessful (and species-suicidal) alternative.

  7. Actually, I was thinking about your other ramblings on ‘the morality of markets’ and there is a more fundamental point – without specialisation, there would be no need for markets (if we are all subsistence farmers, for example).

    The minute that people specialise, you need markets. Even in The Bibble they had fishermen and money lenders and goatherds and prostitutes and so on, and so they had markets as well.

    So people who say ‘markets are bad’ are really saying ‘specialisation is bad’ which in turn means that whoever says this wants everybody to be a subsistence farmer (and yes, some of the Greenies do say this out loud).

    Which gets back to your point, if you are better at accounting than repairing your own car, you are better off working a few hours extra and paying a mechanic to do half an hour’s work on your car than you would be trying to repair it yourself.

  8. @Aussie
    “And so the mask slips and Tim is now railing against the democratic principle itself.”

    And he is right to do so. There are reasons for which majority of decisions in so called democratic societies are not made according to the democratic principle.

  9. “And so the mask slips and Tim is now railing against the democratic principle itself.”

    Democracy should only be used where a decision one way or anothr has to be made that has to apply to everyone. It is legitimate to put things like government, currency, what side of the road to drive on, official language and the like to popular vote. However where it is possible for people to do whatever they please without it affecting other people, then the state – democratic or otherwise – has no business legislating. The state for example has no business decreeing what god to worship (or not worship) even if a majority of people could be mustered to chose one particular god (or none). Similarly a democractically decided favourite color, favourite food, or favourite number of hours to work in a week has no legitamacy.

  10. So, what will happen? Will you (as in, the UK) just flip the EU the collective finger and carry on working as you see fit?

    Will Gordon Brown and his Labourites force UK employers to comply with this (and at a time of significant economic downturn?)

    Will you institute legislation that endorses the EU legislation in name, but in substance contains sufficient opt-out clauses/etc, to allow employers to carry on as they like?

    Will you just leave the EU?

    (From an Aussie, curious about how the UK and other members of the EU deal with the stupid legal dictates that emanate from that organisation.)

  11. What Peter Ridson says.

    “democracy” is not the core value we need, but Rule of Law, something that the EU flouts. Rule of Law aims to protect property, personal choices and to defend people from coercion.

    Forcing people to not work more than 48hrs a week is coercion – and don’t think that it will not be used to do that. The result will be lower competitiveness and so less wealth and fewer jobs.

    The best think for the UK is to retain the opt-out (and why is it “controversial”?), be more efficient than other parts of Europe and so draw in wealth creation and opportunities to our shores. The rest of the EU? Their problem. Stuff them if they want to stuff themselves.

  12. I am a simple soul and so dont really understand the complexities of all this. However,to my mind, if employees are only allowed to work 48 hours per week on average, won’t this mean that factories – for example – will require MORE staff doing fewer hours rather than FEWER staff doing more hours? I currently work as an Agency worker in a factory that has existed for years on the permanent staff working “excessive” hours. Will this now mean that it is more likely that the factory will require more permanent employees or more Agency employees if it wishes to maintain current levels of production? I am obliged for any insight that you can give me.

  13. Thank you for the response I got to my comment above. Your arguement re the “lump of labour fallacy” was interesting but I think flawed. – more managers required to manage 2 people rather than 1 – why? The ratio of managers to producers on a factory floor would remain the same even if the producers were changing hourly. Additional costs other than wages for additional workers – more machines in the factory – nonsense. The machines require a constant amount of people to work them not constant people eg 1 machine running for 24 hours needs 3 operatives completing 8 hours each or 2 operatives completing 12 hours each. 48 hour directive would seem to ensure that 3.5 operatives required for 168 hours of production rather than 2.8 operatives working 60 hour weeks and giving same 168 hours of production. This seems logical to me but I am happy to stand corrected if someone can explain it in simple terms.

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