Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/1999-11-03-Speech-3-105"

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"Mr President, within a free market with unrestricted competition, the business that produces the cheapest product has the best chance of survival, even if the product can only be cheap on account of bad working conditions, poor wages, environmental pollution or cruelty to animals. We can see this on a large scale in the fight for new agreements in the World Trade Organisation and on a small scale in the fight over working hours within the EU Member States. Employers would like to think that workers are always available, even after more than 8 consecutive hours or in the evenings, at nights, Saturdays and Sundays. Paid work is still seen as a commodity. Safety and conditions at work, despite improved legislation, still leave a great deal to be desired. In fact, the efforts required are invariably more demanding than before. Working has increasingly become a type of top-class sport. Only few will sustain it in the long term. Many burn out long before their pensionable age due to overworking. This is why we desperately need to protect workers against wear-and-tear, accidents, overworking and lack of consecutive time off which can be spent as one chooses. This should be a right for everybody, without exceptions. Employers, however, keep pressing for exemptions: exemptions for weak industries which have grown big on the back of production costs kept too low and their nineteenth-century industrial relations. As long as we tolerate this, there will be groups of workers who are discriminated against. In the case of industries which rely on this, there is something wrong. This applies especially to road transport which is far too cheap and passes an increasing amount of business risks onto the transport operators by forcing them to join the ranks of the vulnerable self-employed. It is not a coincidence that the exceptions largely relate to mobile workers and people who earn their living at sea in either the fishing or oil industry. After all, it is more difficult for them than their colleagues in other industries to stand up against discrimination, especially as they are not constantly together with their colleagues at a fixed place of work which is easily accessible for the trade-union representatives. Only in the case of people with special responsibilities and high rewards commensurate with these could it be justified to require, if necessary, working hours that deviate from the norm. If, on the other hand, workers in the weakest positions have to work longer hours, then there is something amiss. This then only happens for the benefit of the competitive battle between companies that work at prices which are too low or that are aiming for profits which are too high. I therefore urge that we do not refer the solutions to this problem back to the consultation between the trade union and employers’ organisations since it is precisely the position of parts of these groups of workers that is still too weak. Negotiations do not solve their problems fast enough. This is why exceptions must be deleted, transitional periods must be short and the traditional rights to Sunday rest actively protected and maintained."@en1

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