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European Parliament staff refuse to consider 40-hour week

A union representing staff in the European Parliament has refused to enter talks on extending the working week by 2.5 hours.

Image: Yves Logghe/AP

THE TRADE UNION representing staff at the European Parliament has refused to enter talks with management on proposals to extend their working week to 40 hours.

The Equipe d’Union Syndicate is opposing plans which would ask staff members to work for 30 minutes more each day, scuppering proposals which the London Independent says would save in the region of €1bn a year.

In a circular email sent to parliamentary staff, the union said: “The unions and staff associations replied to this proposal with a categorical ‘Niet’!”. ‘Niet’ is the Flemish word for ‘no’; Flemish is one of the two main languages used in the Belgian capital.

The union argued that the plan would make the European civil service a less inviting place to work, and would have a negative impact on the domestic and personal lives of the staff affected.

Union reps insist that while most parliamentary staff don’t work full days on a Friday – with no work on Fridays during plenary sittings of the parliament, and half-days every other week – staff are still expected to put in long hours on other days of the week.

Staff in the parliament work under a flexi-time system that allows them to build up extra annual leave for any hours worked in excess of the 37.5 threshold.

The Daily Telegraph explained that this flexi-time arranged led to many senior officials in Brussels taking up to three months’ worth of paid annual leave, having built up so much extra time.

Staff are entitled to a standard allocation of 24 days’ annual leave, in addition to their seven days of public holidays and 11 “non-working” days when the institutions are officially closed because of the parliamentary recess.

As a result, they can sometimes build up over 60 days’ worth of leave – more than a quarter of the full working year.

The EU directly employs around 55,000 staff.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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