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65-hour working week 'too short'

PLANT - CPA claims shutdowns require more hours at peak times

THE Construction Plant-hire Association has called on the Government to fight for lastminute changes to the proposed Working Time Directive, which it says puts specialist workers at a disadvantage.

The CPA has joined forces with electrical, engineering and heating engineers to campaign for changes to the maximum 65-hour week laid down in the directive before it reaches its final ratification stage.

As the directive currently stands, any worker whose union has a 'collective agreement'with their employer will be able to sign up to work in excess of 65 hours a week, provided it is written into the agreement.

But if there is no such union agreement in place at a company, the directive imposes an absolute maximum of 65 hours on workers.

The CPA argues that this removes the flexibility needed for workers, such as crane hirers, who have to work in intensive programmes for process plant shutdowns, where 84-hour weeks are the norm.

Chief executive Colin Wood said: 'The 65-hour week does not take into account the particular needs of the process industries.We need the flexibility to work in peak times for as many hours as is necessary to get the job done.We are pressing Government because, if this rule is enforced, it will mean chemical plant refurbishments and other such shutdowns, where work takes place 24 hours a day, will simply take longer and the costs will go through the roof.'

The CPA is particularly concerned because current employment law, which the directive will replace, allows work in excess of 80 hours a week, provided there is compensatory time off.

He said: 'This flexibility appears to have now been lost. It is no good saying 'Put more men on the job' as we simply do not have enough skilled workers.'