Nobody wanted to admit it but now it is certain: the revision of the Working Time Directive has failed and that is not thanks to a majority but based on the decision made by a minority of Member States. The European Parliament was right in not making an uneasy compromise. As a result, the “old” Working Time Directive, with all its positive, but also negative consequences for workers, will remain in force.
Great Britain, Germany, Poland and others turn exception into rule
After years of negotiations, a handful of Member States, among them Great Britain, Germany, Poland and another 5 smaller countries thwarted the plans to revise the Working Time Directive at the last minute. One of the stumbling blocks was the so-called opt out, i.e. the possible departure from the maximum working time of 48 hours. Originally, the opt out had been introduced as an exception for Great Britain. Now it will be retained indefinitely, thanks to only a few states, which supported it to the end. The Parliament wanted the opt out to expire, did, however, fail because of the Council’s resistance.

Many Member States are threatened with infringement proceedings - including Austria!
Now, many Member States are threatened with infringement proceedings by the EU Commission, because there is still no EU-wide regulation, which takes the rulings of the European Court of Justice into account, according to which on-call time should be regarded as working time. This position was also supported by the Parliament. The Council took another view and did not want to accept that on-call time is always regarded as working time -even though the ECJ ruled accordingly and judgements had been passed years ago.

Workers will have to continue waiting for a further development of EU-wide minimum standards
Sad but true - the ones to suffer are once again Europe’s workers, who will have to carry the can for this decision. One can only hope that the Council and the minority of the “blockers” respectively will soon come to their senses and find a pragmatic solution. For the moment it remains to be seen how the Commission will react to the breakdown between Council and Parliament. There are not many options for the Commission to choose from; the most likely outcome is a new Directive proposal. What this proposal, however, will look like cannot be estimated at this moment in time.

Further information:

Press Release of the European Parliament