Bastille Day in France. Photo by Wikipedia Commons.
30 Apr 2019

French politician opens up the possibility to exclude volunteer firefighters from a strict application of the new European Working Time Directive

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French minster of interior, Christophe Castaner. Photos: (including cover photo above)  Wikipedia Commons License. 

On Friday April 26, 2019, the French minister of the Interior, Mr. Christophe Castaner, visited the emergency department of Fuveau in Bouche du Rhône (France) and at this occasion he met many firefighters. From what he learned, he now tries to create a political opening for volunteer firefighters  to continue working under the new European Working Time Directive. 

This is not the first time France has fought to change the application of the European Working Time Directive when it comes to volunteer firefighters, who would be severely restricted in their ability to serve to the public in the way the WTD is currently worded.

To explain the issue briefly; it would be difficult -  if not impossible - to legally combine a regular job with a part time or volunteer fire service position if standby time (while waiting for a call that may or may not happen) is to be treated the same as actual working hours.

If the stand-by hours are added on top of a regular full time job, counting toward the maximum 48 hour work week, those firefighters could end up legally being obliged to quit their positions in the local fire brigades if they want to keep their day jobs. 

Since many European countries rely heavily on volunteer firefighters, a strict application of the WTD could therefor bring devastating effects for the smaller European fire services´ ability to recruit and keep their volunteer staff, leaving many smaller towns and villages potentially unprotected as a result. 

CTIF has for many years tried to inform about what the WTD could mean for fire services ability to protect citizens across Europe. The issue has been discussed at length in both the CTIF Commission Europe and in the CTIF Voluntary Firefighters´ Commission, and an official statement was issued by CTIF earlier this year. 

CTIF President Tore Eriksson visited Paris on March 6th, after being invited by the French Firefighter Federation to speak on behalf of the CTIF at a televised press conference there about the effects of the WTD. These efforts now seem to have had an effect on French politics, and in the extension, likely also on European Union politics in this important matter. 

The Ministry of Interior in France has now acknowledged the issue and is bringing the application of the Working Time Directive to a high political level in France. Read the statement from the French Firefighter´s Federation below in this post. 

 

 

CTIF President Tore Eriksson at a Press Conference in Paris on March 6 2019, about the effects of the European Working Time Directive on voluntary firefighters.

The photo above is from the Official Press Conference in Paris on Wednesday, March 6. Photo by: Fédération nationale des sapeurs-pompiers de France

See the video from the press conference at the French Firefighters´ Federation streamed live on Facebook today about how the WTD affects firefighters in France


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

 

Statement from the French Firefighters´Federation: 

This is what Grégory Allione, Christophe Marchal and Eric Flores of the Fédération nationale des sapeurs-pompiers de France wrote today, for the purposes of encouraging all national firefighting organizations to continue putting these concerns forth to their politicians, and ultimately, to the  EU government.

 

Dear Colleagues, 

For several years, firefighters in France, as well as their counterparts in the European Union, have been concerned about the threat of the European Working Time Directive (WTD) on volunteer firefighters. The "Matzak Judgment" of the European Union Court of Justice has reinforced these concerns.

On many occasions, both within the CTIF and FEU or in the context of our direct exchanges, we have reflected together on this issue. We also alerted the European authorities jointly. We all agree: only a specific directive to citizen engagement, setting a framework for volunteering, can free us from the working time directive.

From the recent firefighter’s press conference about 2019 European elections last March 6, with the CTIF and our German colleagues, these efforts bore fruit.

Together we were able to explain the key challenge to maintain volunteer firefighters as a selfless commitment.

An increasing number and acceleration of civil protections crises such as floods, forest fires and terrorism makes it more important than ever to be able to rely on the civic engagement of volunteer firefighters to ensure rapid surge capacity in reserve forces everywhere in Europe.

On Friday April 26, 2019, the French minister of the Interior, Mr. Christophe Castaner, had visited the emergency department of Fuveau in Bouche du Rhône (France), (TV report), at this occasion he met many firefighters volunteers and they talk about the evolution of their everyday missions, their concern is that they are more and more solicited for individual rescue.

Mr. Castaner emphasized the importance of selfless commitment and the leading role of volunteer firefighters in our society.

He announced clearly the ambition of the French government to bring at the European union level, an initiative willing to fix a legal structure for protecting the citizen's commitment of all natures in all European union's countries, in order to rule out the possibility of the DETT strict application to the firefighters volunteers.

We have made our voice heard. We therefore invite you to widely inform all your governments of this French government's initiative to preserve the status of firefighters volunteers, so that the work of this new directive is widely supported.

On the other hand, we propose to meet you quickly to work together in order to continue this dynamic, and to define the future directive of citizen engagement.

Let us make of the coming parliament renew a great opportunity to build a Europe able to care and protect all of our countries from all threats and potential disasters. We go faster on our own but we go further all together.

 

With our best regards, see you soon to continue our work.

 

Logo French Firefighter FederationGrégory Allione, Christophe Marchal, Eric Flores

Fédération nationale des sapeurs-pompiers de France

Maison des sapeurs-pompiers de France

32 rue Bréguet – 75011  Paris – Tel : 01 49 23 18 18

 

 

Read the Official CTIF Statement on the WTD here

 

Directive Européenne Temps de Travail (DDETT): Note d'informationLe 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.

 

Die EU-Arbeitszeitrichtlinie: InformationsnotizCTIF 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.