On May 14 the EU Court of Justice delivered another fundamentally important judgment on working time. On an action brought in by the Spanish trade union Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), the Court stated that “Member States must require employers to set up a system enabling the duration of daily working time to be measured”.
While highlighting the “importance of the fundamental right of every worker to a limitation on the maximum number of working hours and to daily and weekly rest periods”, the Court considered that “a national law which does not provide for an obligation to have recourse to an instrument that enables that determination does not guarantee the effectiveness of the rights conferred by the Charter and the Working Time Directive, since it deprives both employers and workers of the possibility of verifying whether those rights are complied with.”
The impact of that (again!) land-marking European-level case on working time may be tremendous.
As a trade union confederation we of course welcome the decision, as a legislation’s (protective) impact requires effective control and verification possibilities. Otherwise, the underlying facts triggering protective provisions could become erratic and accidental, hence void. In other words: to guarantee the application of national and European legislation limiting working time, it is simply necessary to be able to measure it.
However, I believe many of us may also have slightly ambivalent feelings about the possible impact of the case. Excessive verification mechanisms may also, when applied in a distrustful environment, lead to invasive controls, breaches of data protection regulations, restrictions of so-far favourable working arrangement etc. This is something that working time measurement systems need to take into account. According to, for example, a commentary in the German FAZ newspaper, “work organisation based on trust is dead.” Of course, this interpretation is quite extreme, but we also must be aware that total control of working time regimes may be, in the end, also detrimental to workers. In any case, effective workers´ representation and participation will be decisive for a balanced and protective approach.
Of course, the concrete consequences of the judgment will need further thorough assessment, but it highlights yet again in an impressive manner how fundamental and vital the impact of the EU on social and labour law legislation can be.
In this sense, #ThisTimeImVoting – to shape the political direction of the EU!
I wish you all a good and thrilling week ahead. All workers count!
Picture: Klaus Heeger © CESI 2019