Today, the European Parliament rejected, at first reading, a proposal by Commission amending the existing Directive on “the organization of working time of persons, performing mobile road transport activities” at the last session for the EP mandate in Strasbourg. The amendment to reject the Commission proposal was put forward by the PES, Greens/EFA and GUE/NGL. Bilyana Raeva, Member of the European Parliament (NMSS – ALDE) and a reporter in shade for the liberals, insisted, that the new Directive should not regulate the self-employed drivers. The European Parliament adopted the report drawn up by Marie Panayotopoulos -Cassiotou (EPP-ED, EL) and supported by the EC. The liberals and the group of the European Peoples’ Party took a firm stand upon the necessity for thousands of persons performing mobile road transport activities to preserve their competitive advantage to be self-employed and to decide upon their working time.
Speaking in plenary last night, Bilyana Raeva made a statement, that “a legislation enforcing self-employed workers’ working hours regulations could be a dangerous and groundless precedent. Activities’ regulation of this kind does not exist in any other sector. If we take such a decision, it will undoubtedly exert a negative impact on the compatibility of the European economy”.
The self-employed workers, performing mobile road transport activities, unlike the full-time workers do not record working hours for salary purposes. Their working hours’ regulation by the new Directive would limit their own entrepreneurial freedom and would violate the principles of competition. With the vote today, the member states have been deprived of the opportunity to define the term “night work”, formerly a period of at least four hours as defined in national legislations, which lies between 00.00 and 07.00. “Night work” is currently defined as any work, however brief or however long its duration, during that period. The Commission now proposes that work be defined as night work only if actual work has been performed for at least two hours during that period. The rejection of the Directive means, that from now on “night work” could mean even 10 minutes work after midnight.
However, this does not translate into enhancing fair competition, as due to the reduction of working hours and a consequent decrease of income; the great majority of self-employed drivers would not be able to continue with their business. This would have disruptive effects on entrepreneurship development as well as on the position of the sector in countries with a high share of self-employed. Large companies would gain competitive advantage and take over market shares as they are better suited to cope with reduced working hours by economies of scale, while small and medium-sized enterprises would lose.The Commission is expected to withdraw its proposal and take appropriate steps together with Parliament to submit a new proposal, most probably not earlier than in the Autumn of 2009.