The CTIF Official Statement on the European Working Time Directive - and its effect on the fire services
CTIF has for a long time considered there are risks of negative impacts arising from the WTD on the effectiveness of operations, staff recruitment and retention and the terms and conditions of belonging to the fire and rescue service.
This article contains CTIF´s Official Statement on the WTD (in English, French and German) and its effect on European fire services. CTIF´s Executive Committee has already received feedback from our US colleagues on how this situation could become a concern in the US as well, should this Directive become a reality in Europe.
Attached is also the French Position Paper on WTD with a detailed analysis of how the WTD affects our colleagues in France.
The President of CTIF, Mr Tore Eriksson, is currently visiting Paris and the French Firefighters´ Federation in regards to the situation in France in regards to the WTD. The photo above is from the Official Press Conference on Wednesday, March 6.
Le CTIF considère depuis longtemps que la Directive Européenne sur le temps de travail présente des risques d'impact négatif sur l'efficacité de la distribution des secours, le recrutement et la durée d’engagement du personnel, ainsi que sur les conditions d'appartenance aux services d'incendie et de secours.
CTIF hat lange Zeit in Betracht gezogen, dass die EU-Arbeitszeitrichtlinie negative Auswirkungen auf die Wirksamkeit der Einsätze, die Einstellung und Bindung von Personal und die Bedingungen für die Zugehörigkeit zum Feuerwehr- und Rettungsdienst hat.
The key concerns are:
- The 48 hour week and night working
- The impact on part time workers
- The impact on volunteers
- The definition of working time for firefighters and emergency service workers
- The definition of standby time for firefighters and emergency service workers
- The place where firefighters take standby
- The aggregation of hours for firefighters who have other jobs
- Responsibilities of employers where firefighters have more than one job
These resulted in 2015 in a delegation to Brussels to meet the Commissioner which was partly effective and delayed further erosion of volunteer firefighters in the EU. However last year a Judgment of the Court (Fifth Chamber) on 21 February 2018 in a case between Ville de Nivelles verses Rudy Matzak caused consternation.
Effectively volunteer firefighter Matzak sought remuneration for stand-by services which, according to Mr Matzak, must be categorised as working time. The Court decided that a person in Mr Matzak’s circumstances must be classified as a ‘worker’, within the meaning of the Directive for which he received remuneration must be compensated.
The Court interpreted under Article 2 of WTD that stand-by time which a worker spends at home with the duty to respond to calls from his employer within 8 minutes, very significantly restricting the opportunities for other activities, must be regarded as ‘working time’.
This prompted reaction from the French Senate who contacted the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker to say if applied in France it would completely undermine their national rescue and crisis response system. It also prompted a fresh round of discussions between fire federation leaders in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and Luxembourg and at the CTIF Europe Commission meeting in Brussels on 18 November 2019.
The CTIF Europe strategy at the moment is to issue a briefing to all EU Member State members because, as identified in the CTIF Europe Brussels meeting, many northern and eastern European MS have not perceived or even foreseen the WTD as an issue and, in some MS the case identified in Nivelles is not transferable due to there already being variations in the circumstances surrounding non career firefighters. Typically these make the impact less catastrophic generally because existing specific contractual arrangements involve part time, rather than volunteer, firefighter.
20 February 2019
The 48 hour week and night working.
Due to the very nature of emergencies, firefighters may have to work longer hours than would be usually planned for. Unlike an employee who works in a factory, a shop, commercial premise or an office with regular start and finish times, a firefighter may be required to remain at an emergency beyond their normal contracted hours. This may result in the firefighter having to forgo their normal rest breaks; it may result in firefighters who are working night shifts not being able to have an 11 hour break before returning to work. The Fire & Rescue Services/Civil Emergency Services senior managers will always consider the health and welfare of firefighters as being of primary importance and may be able to provide for compensatory rest prior to the start of the next working day. However, circumstances may mean that the firefighter is not able to take compensatory rest. For fighters who have more than one employer, they may be called out to an emergency during the night and then have to report to their other employment in the morning without immediately taking compensatory rest. In such circumstances, who would be responsible for collating the hours worked, would it be each individual employer and if so, how would the employer know how many hours the firefighter has worked for the other employer.
The impact on part-time workers.
In many European countries, the Fire & Rescue Service/Civil Emergency Service is made of full time firefighters and part-time firefighters. Many of the part-time firefighters have other employment which is often their primary employment. In their primary employment they may work between 35 hours and 48 hours per week. If the hours that constitute the 48 hour week as specified in the WTD are a maximum of the hours aggregated between more than one employer, then this would significantly limit or restrict the ability of Fire & Rescue Services/Civil Emergency Services to recruit firefighters from the general workforce. It is vitally important to recognise that the majority of European countries rely on a Fire & Rescue Service/Civil Emergency Service made up of full and part-time firefighters. If there were any restrictions on the number of hours that a part-time firefighter could work due to the hours they worked for their primary employer, this would severely impact upon the operational effectiveness of Fire & Rescue Services/Civil Emergency Services across Europe and in some countries, could result in the Fire & Rescue Service/Civil Emergency Service not being able to function effectively.
The impact on volunteers
Across the EU Fire & Rescue Services/Civil Emergency Services there are many volunteer firefighters who make up a key part of the individual country’s operational emergency response service. Volunteers may work entirely without any form of remuneration, some may receive incidental expenses for travel, personal equipment etc., and some may receive an annual fee for their availability or other form of small remuneration. They are designated as ‘volunteers’ within the individual Member State, and are considered different in employment contractual terms from full time paid employees or part-time paid employees. Such volunteers will almost certainly have full time paid employment elsewhere for the purposes of the WTD. They also give up a great deal of their time for the local Fire & Rescue Service/Civil Emergency Service and this includes for training, maintaining equipment and responding to emergency calls. It is vital that the WTD recognises such volunteers as being separate from the paid employed workforce. These volunteers provide a similar role to the person who runs a local sports club outside their normal paid work or runs a scout group or similar youth group outside their normal paid work. If the hours that ‘volunteer’ firefighters are designated to be working time for the purposes of the WTD, then this would have a significant negative impact on the capability and capacity of many Member States to be able to run their Fire & Rescue Service/Civil Emergency Service.
The definition of working time and standby time for firefighters and emergency service workers
Firefighters across many of the member states work duty systems that may require them to be on the fire station for up to 24 hours at a time. During this 24 hour period and usually in the night time hours, firefighters are allowed to rest and to sleep and are not required to do any work unless they have to respond to an emergency call. This period when firefighters can rest and sleep is often termed ‘standby time’. Other groups of firefighters, specifically Officers and part-time firefighters may be on-call from their home. When they are at their home they are not required to work, but they have to be available to respond to an emergency call if required. We would ask that the WTD acknowledges how the Fire & Rescue Service/Civil Emergency Service works in practice and that some degree of flexibility is provided to permit standby time not being considered as working time, and that the WTD recognises the differences in the way Fire & Rescue Services/Civil Emergency Services operate compared to the more general employment practices found in offices, shops, factories etc., where employers have a much greater degree of control over their employees working routines and working hours. The Fire & Rescue Service is a different type of workplace where employees are not required to work throughout a 24 hour period, but are required to be ‘available to work’ in response to an emergency situation.
The place where firefighters take standby time
Across the EU member states, all Fire & Rescue Services/Civil Emergency Services provide an operational response capability in the event of an emergency, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year. In the larger towns and cities, this emergency response will be provided primarily by full time firefighters (in some cases this will be supplemented by part-time firefighters and volunteers), and in smaller towns, rural communities and villages, the emergency response service will be provided by part-time firefighters and volunteers. Firefighters may be required to remain at their place of work, but be able to rest or sleep as part of the emergency response service; firefighters may be able to rest at a location within the boundary but separate from the fire station, and be immediately available to respond to an emergency call; firefighters may be able to rest away from the fire station, at their home or elsewhere, but also available to respond immediately to an emergency call. The key factor in all these cases is that the firefighter is not required to undertake any work and that they can rest and sleep, but they must be available and able to respond to an emergency call; the difference is the location where the firefighter can take this rest; it may be on the fire station, it may be away from the fire station but within the fire station boundary or it may be at the firefighters home or elsewhere. There is general agreement from FEU members that if the firefighter is not required to work and can rest and sleep, then these hours should not be classified as working time under the WTD and should not constitute working hours for aggregating the 48 hour maximum working week.
The aggregation of hours for firefighters who have other jobs
Many firefighters have other paid employment. Some full time firefighters have other paid employment on their days off; this is not unlike other sectors where employees who have a full time job during the day may drive a taxi or work in a bar during their time away from their full time employment. Many part-time or volunteer firefighters have a full time job away from the Fire & Rescue Service/Civil Emergency Service. In such cases part-time or volunteer firefighters may be working approximately 40 hours per week with their full time employment, and in some circumstances they may exceed this number of hours if they work overtime. Part-time or volunteer firefighters are required to attend regular training sessions with their Fire & Rescue Service/Civil Emergency Service; they may be required to attend their local fire station to maintain their equipment and they will be required to respond to emergency calls. Part-time and volunteer firefighters will work a varied number of hours but if this is added to and aggregated with their full time employment, then the total may exceed 48 hours in any working week. Similarly, full time firefighters may work approximately 40 hours per week for their Fire & Rescue Service/ Civil Emergency Service and may also work in excess of 10 hours per week in another job i.e. driving a taxi, working in a bar etc. The WTD is unclear on aggregation of hours if an employee has more than one form of paid employment, who is responsible for collating the hours an employee may work if they have more than one employer and the consequences of aggregated hours exceeding 48 in such circumstances. The FEU would wish to make clear to the Commissioner that the capability and capacity of Fire & Rescue Services/ Civil Emergency Services across the EU is dependent on a mixture of full time part-time and volunteer firefighters. Any restrictions on the ability of firefighters to have more than one employer and to exceed 48 hours when all employments are aggregated, would significantly impact on the operational effectiveness of all Fire & Rescue Services/Civil Emergency Services, in every Member State.
Responsibility of employers where firefighters have more than one job
This point is linked to the previous comment in circumstances where firefighters have more than one job. In such circumstances, a firefighter may exceed 48 hours per week without any of the individual employers being aware of this fact. If a firefighter has more than one employer and all working hours have to be aggregated for the purposes of the WTD, this will undoubtedly present significant difficulties for proper and effective recording of hours. It may cause employers of part-time and volunteer firefighters to remove their permission for their staff to undertake firefighting and emergency service duties in their spare time, or it may cause employers to restrict the hours their employee can devote to fire and rescue service activities.
 Meeting with Cabinet of Commissioner Marianne Thyssen - 29th June 2015 CTIF accompanied by
Federation of the European Union Fire Officers Association Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Leiter der Berufsfeuerwehren and Fédération Nationale Sapeurs Pompiers de France.
 The Belgian Walloon City south of Brussels
 Senate Motion 26 September 2019
President of CTIF