The recent vote by Members of the European Parliament to scrap the opt-out on the Working Time Directive might sound distant to the concerns of people in the East of England – but Greens believe it was the right decision and that it will matter a great deal to thousands of workers and families.
There are over 3 million people in the UK who currently work over 48 hours a week. Eastern Region has the highest proportion of such workers outside of London – about 15% of all people in this Region will be directly helped.
The Working Time Directive still allows the flexibility to work over 48 hours for a proportion of the year. What it seeks to stop is prolonged periods of long hours, which UK workers carry out more than in any other EU country. Excessive hours can mean stress, anxiety and depression and increased health risks, such as cardiovascular problems (which affects 66,000 UK workers a year). Long hours can also impact on family life.
It is astonishing that 2 out of the 3 Conservative MEPs for our Region voted to keep the status quo, the other abstaining. Having portrayed themselves as a more caring party, keen to support families, in reality when it comes to making decisions they revert to type and support the interests of big business over those of ordinary working people.
If elected as an MEP for the Eastern Region on the 4th June 2009, I will continue to support measures that help workers and families.