Concern at the effects of the European Union’s 48-hour working week has boiled over into a row between the Institute of Directors and the TUC.
The IoD, in a report published on Monday, claimed that about half the members it surveyed believe their businesses would be damaged by the directive which would limit the working week to 48 hours.
TUC general secretary John Monks responded: `The report is a retread of entrenched IoD hostility to basic employment standards which are accepted everywhere else in Europe, and which many of Britain’s best companies already meet.’
Ruth Lea, head of the IoD’s policy unit and a co-author of the report, said: `It is clear from the survey that our members are very concerned about the extra burdens and costs that will arise when the Working Time Directive is implemented and if the UK were to opt into the Social Chapter.’
Last month the Department of Trade and Industry published a consultation document on the directive, inviting comments by 6 March. This followed a European Court of Justice ruling that Britain is obliged to obey the directive.
Trade secretary Ian Lang said the government would aim to secure changes to the Maastricht Treaty so that the directive no longer affected British firms.
While the IoD report is hostile to the 48-hour week, 59.8% of respondents said it would have `no effect’ on the size of their workforces, although 51.6% said it would damage their businesses.
However the IoD admitted that some of its members supported the Social Chapter on social and moral grounds, while others – `albeit a minority’ – were not only critical of the IoD for conducting a survey `that some saw as purely political’, but also supported the directive.