Hudghton (ARE) - Mr President, the main principles underlying the directive on working time are important and are indeed worthy of this Parliament's support. The stated objectives are fairness to all workers in their conditions of employment, as well as recognising issues of health and safety that are able to be addressed by at least some of the Commission's proposals and some of the rapporteur's opinions. However, measures designed to achieve desirable objectives, I would contend, must be practical and be capable of recognising the special nature of certain sectors and the unique working conditions and practices therein. I represent, for example, offshore workers in two very different industries: in fishing and in oil. On the one hand share-fishermen, who work for themselves, resent the possible imposition of yet more restrictions on their working practices. Yet, on the other hand, I know from many letters from constituents on this subject that hundreds of offshore workers in the North Sea oil and gas industry would welcome being brought under the working time directive. However, I am concerned that, as things stand, its implementation may not have much direct and positive impact on those it is really designed to target. For example, I am concerned that many offshore contract labourers would still not be entitled to paid annual leave because of the shift rotas which they work. It would be an irony if the working time directive was imposed upon fishermen who do not need or want it but fails to benefit oil workers who do. We must make sure that our policy is flexible enough to target the real problems. We must ensure that our proposals are workable and acceptable to those most directly affected by them. I am aware that Mrs Bonino's officials are exploring possible ways of taking account of the special needs of the fishing industry. I certainly hope that a satisfactory solution to that will be found with the support, I hope, of Mr Flynn. Here in Parliament we have a chance to show that we are responsive to the real needs of sectors such as offshore workers and to prove that we are not a remote and inflexible bureaucracy.

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