Sweden: when workers don’t want shorter working hours
In Sweden, hundreds of firefighters have protested against the implementation of the EU Working Time Directive. Around two-thirds of the country’s firefighters do this work on a part-time basis, and 24-hour on-call shifts have so far enabled them to balance their firefighter duties with their main jobs and private lives. The Directive’s compulsory 11 hours of rest during a 24-hour period would mean this is no longer possible.
An intervention in the democratic ecosystem
The EU is interfering in a matter that would be better left to the social partners to regulate, Götesborgs-Posten criticises:
“The aim of the Working Time Directive is certainly good. Everyone has a right to rest. But different workplaces have different conditions. That is precisely the strength of the Swedish model: that it is possible to negotiate rules that suit every workplace and every profession. This flexibility will disappear if the Swedish labour market is regulated by Brussels. As will worker participation. For the EU directive is not just an encroachment on the Swedish labour market model, it is also an intervention in the democratic ecosystem.”
We need well-rested firefighters
Upsala Nya Tidning puts in:
“The interests of the fire brigades are naturally in conflict with the public interest in a functioning rescue service. ... A response by someone who has already been on duty for 20 hours will hardly be optimal. But in a 24-hour on-call shift, eight hours of sleep are mandatory, some might object. ... However, due to the nature of the work, actually getting that sleep is not certain. Staff may have to be on the go all the time. Just as a caregiver must be prepared for the fact that the person being cared for may need help at any time of the day or night. If something happens, you have to be on your toes 100 percent of the time. This service is what the citizens pay for.”