The TUC has accused the Prime Minister of ’tilting at windmills’ ahead of his speech last Friday on the European Union.

Conservative MPs wrongly accuse the Working Time Directive of being a burden on the UK economy, says the TUC, yet David Cameron has chosen to make his big speech in the Netherlands – a country which has long abandoned excessive working hours in favour of higher productivity.

The latest figures on working time from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that the average Dutch worker spends 1,379 hours at work each year, producing $82,460 in GDP value (£51,452 at today’s prices).

The average UK worker spends 1,625 hours a year at work yet only produces $76,700 in GDP value (£47,859 at today’s prices) – making Dutch productivity per hour 27 per cent higher than UK productivity, and allowing Dutch workers five more hours a week of their own.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘The government should abandon its obsession with the Working Time Directive which guarantees millions of people a paid holiday and stops dangerous work being done by exhausted people.

‘Forcing people to work longer hours is not the answer. Instead of tilting at the windmill of the Working Time Directive, the Prime Minister should be taking steps to raise UK productivity to Dutch levels and beyond, through more investment in training, jobs, infrastructure and a better work-life balance.

‘It seems strange that David Cameron has chosen the Netherlands for today’s speech – a country which still manages to produce more than the UK, despite its workers leaving work on average an hour earlier every working day.’

Earlier this week the TUC issued a statement on Europe* which called on the Prime Minister to stop the uncertainty over a referendum which was in danger of holding back investment in jobs and growth.