Framework for EU negotiations agreed

Britain will sign up to a revision of the Lisbon treaty to underpin stricter new fiscal rules for the Eurozone, in exchange for an examination of the impact of the European working time directive, which currently imposes a 48-hour week on workers across the EU.

In a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, Prime Minister David Cameron placed two key demands on the directive. These were that Britain’s opt-out for individual workers would be maintained and to reverse the Simap and Jaeger case judgments by the European Court of Justice, which classed ‘on call’ work under the directive.

The tighter rules that Germany is calling for would mean the European Commission and the European Court of Justice would act as judge and jury for any member state that breaks the fiscal rules.

Any changes to the working time directive will be decided by the system of qualified majority voting, and this move could pacify Conservative Eurosceptics, who want the UK to renegotiate its membership and to take back powers from the EU.

However, Lord Heseltine, the pro-European former Conservative deputy prime minister, suggested that closer involvement with the EU could be the future.

Lord Heseltine told the Politics Show on BBC1: “I think we will join the euro. I think the chances are the euro will survive because the determination, particularly of the French and the Germans, is to maintain the coherence that they have created in Europe.”

Strike legislation could be reformed

Ministers are again threatening to implement minimum turnout restrictions on public sector strike ballots to limit the disruption caused by industrial action.

Over 2 million workers are set to join the walk out on November 30 for a day of action organised by the TUC, including teachers, civil servants and council workers.

The Government is discussing a 40% minimum turnout for ballots to be deemed legal, which would make it more difficult for unions to organise strikes.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude told the BBC 1’s Andrew Marr show: “Members, for the most part, simply haven't voted in these ballots.

“We keep these things under review. No law is set in stone forever but we think broadly the law works pretty well. We keep it under review but the CBI have made a powerful case for change, others have as well.”

The final offer from the Government was “as good as it gets”, Maude said, and suggested that this could be withdrawn if the strike goes ahead. This offer would guarantee that no-one within 10 years of retirement would have to work longer or see their pension income fall. More generous rates of accrual are also included in the deal.

The Lib Dems are thought to be much less keen on minimum turnout thresholds, and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has suggested there are more important things to focus on.

Under the ‘40% rule’, some of the larger unions’ ballots would have been void, including those of Unison (29%), Unite (31%), and the GMB (33%). Many smaller unions easily exceeded that turnout, however, including the National Association of Probation Officers (45%), National Association of Head Teachers (53.6%), Society of Radiographers (58.2%) and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (66%).

Author's Bio: 

Roy Rowlands writes for Public Sector Executive an essential guide to public sector management offering a wide view public sector news views and opinions