Labour Calls For 48 Hour Working Week

5 February 2018, 19:28 | Updated: 5 February 2018, 19:29


Scottish Labour has renewed calls for the working week to be capped at 48 hours after Brexit.

Leader Richard Leonard argued for the rights provided by the EU working time directive to be protected on leaving the bloc and for the removal of the current UK opt-out.

Labour has previously said the move, which would limit the working week to 48 hours, would benefit 250,000 workers in Scotland.

The party said the opt-out would be phased out gradually as earnings rise.

Mr Leonard said: "The provision of the so-called 'UK opt-out' from the working time directive has allowed for excessive working hours to prevail in breach of a measure designed to provide health-and-safety-based rights for workers.

"As a result, currently an estimated quarter of a million workers in Scotland routinely work in excess of 48 hours a week. This is no way to run an economy.

"In my view, we need to retain the provisions of the directive like the right to paid holidays, the right to time off between shifts and the minimum rights to breaks - including the additional protection afforded to young people and, over time, end the opt-out by managing a planned reduction of excessive working hours in such a way that earnings do not drop and new secure employment is created.

"This should be seen in the context of automation and the need to drive up productivity."

The Labour leader said EU regulations had sometimes been used as an "excuse" for not implementing progressive policies, citing the tendering of the contract for Calmac ferry routes and the failure to make payment of the living wage a requirement for private contractors carrying out public works.

He said: "There is no doubt the EU has been used to force through a market-based approach to some areas of public policy where markets should have no place, which in turn has driven down growth in our economy, driven down wages for working people and driven up job insecurity."

Mr Leonard called for "a credible, radical and compelling strategy for reindustrialisation and a re-balancing for the post-Brexit Scottish economy".

He said: "Our new relationship with the European Union will provide a new path.

"Having the right to determine our own procurement policy, to deliver apprenticeships and skills, to end bogus self-employment, to end zero-hours contracts and to pay decent wages must be policy objectives.

"They are just some examples of areas in which governments have hidden behind EU procurement or state-aid rules to avoid making progressive decisions."