Commission backs Oil Workers on Work Time Directive

15 July 2005
Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith, acting on behalf of a constituent, has been told by the European Commission that the provisions of the Working Time Directive do cover offshore workers including those working outside the UK's 12 mile territorial waters.

The Commission has stated that workers employed out with EU territory are covered by the directive as long as their contract is governed by the law of a member state. Speaking after receiving the answer from the Commission Mr Smith stated

"The verdict in the tribunal is correct in terms of European law, offshore workers should be treated the same, no matter whether they are in UK waters or not. Several offshore workers have been in contact with me about their rights under the European Working Time Rules and it seems as if the companies are unclear about how the rules work.

My concern is that oil companies may seek to offshore the administration of these jobs to avoid EU rules. Hopefully the companies and oil workers will be able to reach an agreement on terms and conditions for workers that suit all parties and the uncertainty over workers rights can come to an end. I can see the company's point of view, but the need for all workers to be treated fairly is a valid one. If this can be done without further court battles then surely that's better for all sides."

The answer from Commissioner Spidla states

"Workers employed to work on platforms outside EU territory are covered by the Directive if their employment contract is governed by the law of an EU member state."

Note to Editors

Full Text of question and answer below member state.

E-1871/05 Offshore workers and the European Working time directive

Article 2(8) of Directive 2003/88/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 November 2003 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time defines "offshore work" as "work performed mainly on or from offshore installations (including drilling rigs), directly or indirectly in connection with the exploration, extraction or exploitation of mineral resources, including hydrocarbons, and diving in connection with such activities, whether performed from an offshore installation or a vessel". Can the Commission indicate whether Directive 2003/88/EC applies to offshore workers who are employed to work on rigs located outside the twelve-mile limit?

Answer given by Mr Spidla on behalf of the Commission

Directive 2003/88/EC applies to the territory of the European Union. The territory of each EU member state includes an adjacent belt of sea described as territorial sea, which cannot exceed 12 nautical miles (see in particular Articles 2 and 3 of the United Nations convention on the Law of the Sea (Montego Bay Convention))

Workers employed to work on platforms outside EU territory, within the meaning of the previous paragraph, are covered by the Directive if their employment contract is governed by the law of an EU member state.