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Conservatives protect self-employed drivers

Tuesday, 29th September 2009

British Conservatives in the European parliament's Employment Committee have succeeded in stopping a move by Socialists to end the opt-out, under the European Working Time Directive, for self-employed mobile workers (effectively, self-employed drivers).

The Socialists brought forward an amendment to reject the Commission's proposal to retain the opt-out. The amendment was defeated in Committee, after a tense re-count, by just one vote - 25 to 24.

The haulage industry, the Federation of Small Business and other concerned groups recognised that the proposed extension of the Working Time Directive would have imposed major new costs and inflexibilities on the haulage industry, while making little difference to safety - the main excuse for the proposed extension of the Directive.

The European Commission had listened to the arguments of the industry, which are basically that, first, the extension of the Directive would have added a whole new layer of bureaucracy and box-ticking, increasing costs and reducing flexibility and competitiveness; and secondly, that self-employed mobile workers are already covered by extensive and wide-ranging safety legislation, and that the proposed extension of the directive would have been redundant.

While the proposal could still come back at the plenary stage, last night's decision represents a major victory for common sense.

Commenting on the vote, Conservative Employment Spokesman Roger Helmer MEP said,

"This is an early example of the influence which our newly-formed Group of European Conservatives and Reformists can exert in the parliament. Without our votes, the left would have won, and the European haulage industry would have lost".