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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 May 2005, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
UK workers ponder hours limits
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The UK is the only country widely opting out of the directive

Some UK workers believe their right to work more than the EU's standard 48-hour week has come under threat with a European Parliament vote to scrap an opt-out to the rules.

But others believe scrapping the opt-out from the Working Time Directive will stop employees being forced to work unfairly long hours.

Two British-based workers set out their opposing views on the issue.

DAVE URION, 34
MODS PRODUCTION SUPERVISOR, BRISTOW HELICOPTERS

Our basic working week is 37 and a half hours, and typically I do 58 hours.

That's entirely my choice - I am well known for the amount of hours I put in.

Dave Urion
It is my democratic right to choose to work longer hours if I so wish
Dave Urion

It's an ideal scenario - the company benefits from the flexibility and the extra hours from us, and I can increase my salary.

I probably earned an extra 70% last year. I want to buy a house at some point, so I am just constantly earning and saving.

The directive wouldn't affect me right now in terms of standard of living, but if I had a mortgage commitment it would really hurt me.

This is my little pet obsession - the threat of well-paid bureaucrats dictating to me how much I work.

No-one should be coerced into working overtime, and if the opt-out is being abused in that way it is completely wrong.

But I don't want to be penalised because that is happening in other quarters.

It is my democratic right to choose to work longer hours if I so wish.

Mr Urion has been working at Bristow Helicopters, Redhill Aerodrome, Surrey, since 1994.

GABRIEL EGAN, 39
LECTURER IN ENGLISH

For four years I worked for an educational charity with an absurd culture of long hours.

My co-workers were routinely working more than 50 hours a week - some peaked at over 60 on occasions - and yet productivity was not especially high.

Gabriel Egan
Without anyone even cracking a whip, people can burn themselves out
Gabriel Egan

There was a strong, mistaken sense that doing lots of hours meant getting lots done.

Because the place was a charity, there was a general feeling that the usual management-employee relations did not apply.

People lost sight of the work-life balance.

An office culture can start to snowball - without anyone even cracking a whip, people can burn themselves out.

My experiences there have made it clear to me that the Working Time Directive is absolutely necessary to prevent such a culture of overwork, to which the British seem especially prone.

From within such a culture it can seem that everyone's efforts are 'voluntary', but to see it this way is to miss the unconscious pressures that can develop.

You need something that saves people from themselves.

Gabriel Egan now works as a senior lecturer in English at Loughborough University, Leicestershire.

SEE ALSO
Long hours can work for all
24 Feb 05 |  Business
The new face of slave labour
06 Jan 05 |  Magazine
EU aims to curb working opt-out
22 Sep 04 |  Business
Who is working 48 hours a week?
22 Sep 04 |  Business

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