The debate about the work-free Sunday must take place in the European Parliament
The Secretariat of COMECE regrets that the Chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs by invoking the Parliaments’ Rules of Procedure has refused to put to the vote several amendments tabled by different parliamentarians which aimed at including the protection of Sunday in the new Working Time Directive. The Secretary General of COMECE, Father Piotr Mazurkiewicz, expressed his disappointment that a debate on the protection of Sunday has not taken place apparently due to procedural obstacles.
The European Parliament is now deliberating on the Second Reading on the revision of the Working Time Directive of 2003. On 22 October 2008, seven Members of Parliament from the ranks of the European People’s Party (EPP), the Party of European Socialists (PSE) and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) tabled amendments to the draft recommendation of the rapporteur Alejandro Cercas (PSE), according to which the protection of Sunday should be anchored in the Working Time Directive. To that end, the existing Article 5 of the Directive should be complemented by a second paragraph according to which the minimum weekly rest period “shall in principle include Sunday “.
Furthermore, MEPs tabled a new recital in order to underline the importance of a work-free Sunday for the protection of workers’ health. It says: “The likelihood of sickness in companies that require staff to work on Sundays is greater than in companies that do not require staff to work on Sundays. The health of workers depends, among other factors, on their opportunities to reconcile work and family life, to establish and maintain social ties and to pursue their spiritual needs. Sunday, as the traditional weekly rest day, contributes to these objectives more than any other day of the week.” In their justification the parliamentarians point to the fact that “absenteeism and sick-leave increase significantly in companies working on Sunday”. This negative impact on workers’ health “is mainly due to the consequences for social, especially family life”. Sunday “is the natural choice for family related activities, as childcare facilities and schools are closed”.
If the Parliament wishes to be serious about the aim of reconciling work and family life – a goal which is explicitly mentioned in the Directive – it would make sense to complete the current draft by adding a provision on Sunday as a weekly rest day.
The Secretariat of COMECE encourages Members of the European Parliament to make full use of the flexibility within the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, in order to enable a debate and vote on the protection of Sunday to take place in the Plenary on 16 December 2008. The protection of Sunday is a cornerstone of the European Social Model and an issue of central importance for workers and their families.