Sectoral social partners sign agreement on working time for inland waterway transport

16/02/2012 Sectoral social partners sign agreement on working time for inland waterway transport

The agreement reached was an initiative by the social partners.

The signatory parties - European Barge Union (EBU), European Skippers' Organisation (ESO), representing the employers' side, and European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF), representing the workers' side, agreed to lay down specific rules for working time on passenger or cargo transport ships in inland waterways across the EU.

The new agreement will take account of the distinctive working conditions in this sector, while ensuring a high level of protection for these workers' health and safety. It covers both crew members and shipboard personnel (for example hotel and catering workers on board a passenger transport ship).

It lays down important minimum rules:

  • total working time may not exceed 48 hours per week, though this may be averaged over up to 12 months,
  • total night working time may not exceed 42 hours per week,
  • a right to at least four weeks' paid annual leave, and to paid annual health checks,
  • a right to at least 10 hours' rest every day (at least six hours must be uninterrupted) and at least 84 hours' rest in total every week.

This new agreement also means that the Working Time Directive will no longer apply to this sector. It will allow for more specific rules suited to this particular sector of activities. Similar specific EU working time rules have already been agreed by European social partners for mobile workers in civil aviation and in cross-border rail transport, and for seafarers.

The agreement will also provide some flexibility to suit the specificity of the sector. For example, in an emergency, the captain or his representative can require the crew or the personnel to do any necessary work to ensure the safety of the vessel, passengers or cargo, until the normal situation is restored. The normal working day is 8 hours, but daily working time may be longer, and some weekly rest days may be temporarily postponed, provided that the minimum standards set out above are always respected.

The signatory parties will now ask the Commission for their agreement to be made legally binding in the EU. Before presenting a legislative proposal to the Council, the Commission will carry out an assessment of the representative status of the signatory parties, their mandate and the legality of each clause of the agreement in relation to existing Union law, in accordance with normal practice. This agreement shows that social partners are able to agree on working time issues, which is encouraging for the on-going cross-sectoral negotiations on the topic.

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