Bus drivers protest new EU rules

Hundreds of long-distance bus drivers paraded their vehicles past the European Union's headquarters Wednesday in protest at new legislation on working hours.

The drivers are angry at rules which will force them to take at least two days off every two weeks and prevent them from working more than six consecutive days.

Belgian driver Guy Van Hyfte, one of the organizers, said the changes would lead to pay cuts and force long-distance drivers to take days off when they are on the road rather than waiting till they get home.

"It's going to reduce our salary by about EUR500 (US$660) to EUR600 (US$790) each month," Van Hytte told Associated Press Television News. "The solidarity between the coach drivers is very great."

He said about 500 buses from Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark joined the protest drive through Brussels to the EU's headquarters. Police escorted the convoy in smaller groups to minimize traffic disruption in the Belgian capital.

The EU says the rules, which are due to come into effect April 11, will improve safety and working conditions for drivers. They were approved by national governments in the EU and the European Parliament in 2005.

Among the previsions are a maximum weekly driving time of 56 hours and longer compulsory daily rest periods, reports AP.

Van Hyfte said the drivers did not object to all the new rules, welcoming, for example the longer daily rest hours.

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