Inland waterways transport
Social agreement on working time and rest time
By Isabelle Smets | Thursday 16 February 2012
Specific rules on working time in the inland waterway sector should soon be introduced throughout the EU. The social partners
(1) reached an agreement on the matter, on 15 February, which will exempt the sector from rules of the general directive on working time in the EU (Directive 2000/34/EC). The signatories are now asking the European Commission to transform this agreement into Community legislation. The procedure is not rare in the transport sectors: it was employed in civil aviation, cross-border rail transport and maritime transport. The agreement on inland waterway workers concerns both passenger ships (cruise ships for instance) and cargo transport ships. It covers both crew members and shipboard personnel (for example, cooks, cleaners or musicians on a passenger transport ship).
It lays down minimum rules:
- total working time may not exceed 48 hours per week (though this is flexible as it 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 ten hours’ rest every day (at least six hours must be uninterrupted) and at least 84 hours’ rest in total every week
- annual working time is 2,304 hours minus national holidays.
Given the job specificity, the agreement also lays down the possibility of temporarily derogating from these rules. This seems quite an obvious necessity in the event, for instance, of an emergency, and until a normal situation has been restored: in that case a captain can require the crew or the personnel continue to work. There is also flexibility outside of extreme situations. The normal working day is eight 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. Inland waterways cover more than 37,000 kilometres in the EU (20 out of 27 member states have inland waterways). Around 500 million tonnes of freight are transported on inland waterways annually.(1) European Barge Union (EBU) and European Skippers’ Organisation (ESO) representing the employers’ side; and European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), representing the workers’ side