Sector criticises government plan to stop opt-out for working time

Ending opt-out is 'bad news' for horticulture

Industry bodies have hit out at the Government’s efforts to end the opt-out clause of the Working Time Directive. Rebel Labour Euro-MPs, backed by French socialists, voted down the opt-out in the European Parliament last week. An NFU representative said: “It’s not good news. The Labour Party voted down the opt-out option but that’s not the end of it.” The decision goes to the EU council of ministers next month. DEFRA secretary of state Margaret Beckett will look to get support from Germany and others to reverse the decision, which is part of an EU overhaul of 1993 legislation. The NFU backs the opt-out that allows horticulture staff to work more than 48 hours a week, which is considered particularly important during peak harvest times when workers may be in short supply. The representative said: “The opt-out is a good thing for employers and employees.” The union said it will be lobbying government to have the decision overturned. HTA director general David Gwyther said: “We regard it as unhelpful and artificial interference with normal labour markets. In our industry we need seasonal flexibility. This will not help the global competitiveness of Great Britain. “It is particularly unhelpful when we’re likely to be asked to vote on the future relation of the EU in the next 12 months.” The NFU Board for Horticulture met yesterday (18 May) to discuss its business plan on how it intends to influence government horticulture policy in the next year.

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