'No changes need to be made to the rules on the organisation of working time for offshore workers' (people working on oil rigs) indicated the European Commission in a report on the implementation of the 1993 directive on working time (1). Social partners, despite being consulted by the Commission, declined to comment whereas member states were 'fairly unanimous' in describing the clauses in the directive as being 'adequate for the sector in question' and thus not needing to be amended. The report goes on to describe this status quo as probably being the result of the 'flexibility' of the provisions in the directive.

Offshore activities in fact only impact on a limited number of member states (Germany, Denmark, Spain, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and the United Kingdom). Most of the other member states have no offshore work in their 'territorial waters' nor do any national companies perform offshore work outside their territorial waters. The number of workers is also limited: around 30,000, most of whom (25,000) are employed by the United Kingdom.


The directive, since it was amended in 2000, covers offshore workers but gives member states the option of derogating from several of its provisions provided that the workers concerned are afforded equivalent compensatory rest periods. The United Kingdom, however, is the only member state to have made full use of these possibilities and as such is the only country to use the individual...

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