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28/01/2005

Freelance 'long hours' petition gets union backing

Members of Bectu's freelance sections have been urged to contribute to an online petition about excessive working hours.
Any freelancer working in television is invited to register feelings about the long hours culture of the industry, and the common tendency of film companies to demand that they opt out of rules which are meant to limit an average working week to 48 hours.
The initiative was launched by a group of freelance workers, and mirrors Bectu's own campaigning and lobbying work on these issues.
Documented examples of companies pressuring freelancers to waive the 48 hour limit have already been sent by Bectu to Brussels, where the European Commission is reviewing the Working Time Directive, which introduced the limit.
The union could find itself at loggerheads with the government over working time, since the UK is one of the nations pushing for fewer restrictions on workers' rosters. Britain is also likely to argue that the audio-visual industry should remain exempt from key sections of the Directive, particularly the right of workers to an 11 hour break between turns of duty.
A previous row between Bectu and the Labour government, over holiday entitlements for freelancers, ended up at the European Court of Justice. The union won a ruling that workers were entitled to accrue leave from their first day of employment.
However, the victory has proved difficult to translate into better holiday rights for freelancers, thanks to the growing habit of rolling alleged holiday pay into basic wage rates.
(GB)
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