Roger Lyons, leader of the Manufacturing, Science, Finance union, said there was already ample evidence some organisations were "leaning" on workers to forgo the protection of the law, which came into force on 1 October. "Don't sign. Get advice," Mr Lyons declared - although employers greeted this with scepticism.
Mr Lyons pointed out that nearly all of the working population was covered by the directive, which imposed a 48-hour limit on the working week. If companies want employees to work longer they have to secure agreement with each individual. Some four million employees regularly worked longer than 48 hours and therefore stood to benefit from the law, Mr Lyons said.
It was estimated that 5,000 people die every year fromcoronary disease linked to overwork. "People who work long hours when they're young never fully recover," he said.
Some unions are using the directive to put pressure on employers on a whole range of issues and electricians working on the Jubilee Line extension are refusing to sign away their rights unless they receive a pay rise.
Employers' representatives argued that there was no evidence companies were putting unlawful pressure on their employees. There could be a whole range of reasons why people wanted to work more than 48 hours, they said.Reuse content