Safety & Health – The Implementation of the Working Time Directive in the Armed Forces

On Wednesday 25 May 2022, EUROMIL held a day long conference on safety and health in the armed forces and the implementation of the Working Time Directive (WTD). Speakers at the event included Stefaan van der Jeught from the European Court of Justice; Aïda Moumni, a military rights lawyer based in Paris; ETUC Deputy General Secretary, Claes-Mikael Stahl; Lieutenant General Jean Paul Claeys of the Belgian Ministry of Defence; and Ulf Häußler and Kathrin Geyer from the German Ministry of Defence.

The conference allowed for an engaging and open discussion on the realities of safety and health in the armed forces arising out of the restrictions facing military personnel from the scope of regulations like the WTD. Mr van der Jeught opened the session with an overview of the European Court of Justice’s decision in the case C-742/19 regarding the definition of ‘working time’ and the statement by the court that the military is not automatically excluded from regulations like the WTD by virtue of being in the armed forces. This presentation stoked discussion on the situation across Europe, in particular in France, and allowed Ms Moumni to give a detailed account of the evolving situation there and the more ‘offensive’ legalistic approach.

Attendees then heard from Mr Stahl, providing a perspective on the matter from the ETUC, who gave a particularly interesting insight into perceptions of the WTD and how it has been controversial since its origins but that despite this, the ETUC position is that it should not reopened but that loopholes should be addressed so that the Directive is applied to all workers.

National perspectives were then given from Lieutenant General Claeys and Mr Häußler and Kathrin Geyer which led the discussion into the next session, focusing on the experiences of some of EUROMIL member associations from Cyprus, Denmark, Ireland, Greece and Spain.

The conference was closed then by EUROMIL Board Member and PDFORRA representative, Ger Guinan, as he highlighted the major lessons learned from the session as well as tools that could be used to pave the way forward for a better future for military personnel across Europe.

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A full report on the event can be read here.

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