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Government stands firm on opting out of the 48-hour week Working Time Directive

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The minister for employment relations, Pat McFadden, has rejected a 48-hour week for the UK, labelling it a "bad deal for Britain".

The UK has resisted pressure from Europe to remove the right to opt out of the 48-hour week Working Time Directive.

Despite ongoing debate at the EU Conciliation Committee in Brussels over the issue, the UK has held firm against the amendment, which would mean the opt-out to a maximum 48-hour working week, would be phased in within the next three years.

McFadden said: "We have said consistently we would not give up the opt-out and that continues to be the case.

"We argued everyone has the right to basic protections surrounding the hours they work, but also the right to choose those hours.

"Choice over working hours has operated successfully in the UK and in the other member states for many years."

He added: "In the current downturn it is more important than ever people keep the right to put more money in their pockets by working longer hours if they wish. We refused to be pushed into that bad deal for Britain."

But TUC general secretary Brendan Barber thinks the Government needs to put an end to "dangerous long hours working".

He said: "We are disappointed the UK is part of a minority of EU governments that continue to block progress towards ending our damaging long hours culture.

"The health hazards and lack of productivity caused by excessive working time are well proven. And with people being made redundant or reducing their hours, the business lobby's insistence that they still need long hours looks even more out of date."