Co-Steel backlash over 48-hour week

Workers at Kent steel mill Co-Steel are objecting to employment contracts which they claim were introduced to get round 48-hour week provisions in the Working Time Directive. According to the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation (ISTC), the new contracts ask workers to agree to undertake more than the 48 hours stipulated by the Working Time […]

Workers at Kent steel mill Co-Steel are objecting to employment contracts which they claim were introduced to get round 48-hour week provisions in the Working Time Directive.

According to the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation (ISTC), the new contracts ask workers to agree to undertake more than the 48 hours stipulated by the Working Time Directive, introduced by the Government at the start of this month.

Although this is legally permitted, employers who want people to work longer must get their written consent without subjecting them to any detriment.

‘Workers felt pressured into signing the new contracts and we are consulting with our lawyers on this matter,’ said Kevin Pass of the ISTC.

According to the union, workers at the mill often work 70 to 80 hours a week before overtime. ‘To complain runs the threat of dismissal,’ said an ISTC official.

The ISTC is concerned about the sacking of 19 workers, almost all active union members, at the start of this month. ‘All of them are appealing,’ said Pass. ‘We believe the sackings are yet another step by the management to dismantle the union structure.’

No one from Co-Steel was available to comment on the union claims. An announcement is expected later this week about who will take over the mill, which was put up for sale by its Canadian owners earlier this year.