The Prime Minister is ‘tilting at windmills' on working time, says TUC

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date: 17 January 2013

embargo: 00.01hrs Friday 18 January 2013

The TUC has accused the Prime Minister of 'tilting at windmills' ahead of his speech later today (Friday) on the European Union.

Conservative MPs wrongly accuse the Working Time Directive of being a burden on the UK economy, says the TUC, yet David Cameron has chosen to make his big speech in the Netherlands - a country which has long abandoned excessive working hours in favour of higher productivity.

The latest figures on working time from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that the average Dutch worker spends 1,379 hours at work each year, producing $82,460 in GDP value (£51,452 at today's prices).

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The average UK worker spends 1,625 hours a year at work yet only produces $76,700 in GDP value (£47,859 at today's prices) - making Dutch productivity per hour 27 per cent higher than UK productivity, and allowing Dutch workers five more hours a week of their own.

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: 'The government should abandon its obsession with the Working Time Directive which guarantees millions of people a paid holiday and stops dangerous work being done by exhausted people.

'Forcing people to work longer hours is not the answer. Instead of tilting at the windmill of the Working Time Directive, the Prime Minister should be taking steps to raise UK productivity to Dutch levels and beyond, through more investment in training, jobs, infrastructure and a better work-life balance.

'It seems strange that David Cameron has chosen the Netherlands for today's speech - a country which still manages to produce more than the UK, despite its workers leaving work on average an hour earlier every working day.'

Earlier this week the TUC issued a statement on Europe* which called on the Prime Minister to stop the uncertainty over a referendum which was in danger of holding back investment in jobs and growth.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- The OECD figures for 2011 are available at:

http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DatasetCode=LEVEL

- *The TUC executive committee believes that the government's call to repatriate powers from the European Union is a smokescreen for plans to launch further attacks on ordinary people's employment rights and could put thousands of jobs at risk.

First, the Government wants to take away the rights working people have gained over the last thirty years from the European Union. Social Europe has provided working people with more equality, more protection from redundancy, more information about what's happening at their workplace, as well as a shorter working week and paid holidays. The government wants to take that away from working people, and make them work longer hours for less pay.

Second, the Prime Minister is playing politics with Britain's future prosperity to appease the Eurosceptics. His dithering about a referendum is deeply damaging to Britain's economic interests, threatening our trade relationships and creating uncertainty which is harming investment prospects, especially in manufacturing.

The one area where the government goes along with the rest of Europe's governments is in the self-defeating policy of austerity, which has brought poverty and misery to millions around Europe and here in Britain. It should instead be devoting its efforts to promoting growth and jobs, calling on the European Union to listen to the evidence from the IMF and OECD and change course on austerity.

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

- Follow the TUC on Twitter: @tucnews

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: media@tuc.org.uk
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk
Alex Rossiter T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07887 572130 E: arossiter@tuc.org.uk

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