Tuesday

25th Sep 2018

Commission defends equal pay for posted workers

  • More than 40 percent of posted workers in the EU are working in the construction business. (Photo: Chris Goldberg/Flickr)

The EU commissioner for employment is standing her ground on a controversial proposal to give equal pay to seconded workers in the EU.

”I am sticking to what I proposed in the past,” Marianne Thyssen told members of the European Parliament’s legal committee (Juri) on Tuesday (12 July).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

”The same rules on remuneration should apply for the same work at the same location, irrespective of who carries out that work: a local worker or a posted worker", she said.

A posted worker, as defined by EU law, is an employee sent by his company to carry out a service in another member state for a limited period.

The commission has said in the past that posted workers sometimes earn only half of their local colleagues' wages.

The Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) has identified posting as a a risk factor for labour exploitation.

But the EU executive’s plans to change the situation came under fire when the parliaments of 11 EU member states in May warned that the commission may be violating the principle of subsidiarity, which stipulates that decisions should be taken by EU states or by local authorities when possible.

MPs in Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, representing more than a third of EU parliaments, triggered an early warning mechanism, popularly known as the “yellow card”, forcing the commission to review its proposal and to decide whether to maintain, amend or withdraw it.

Thyssen is also under pressure from richer countries to stick up for the review.

French and Swedish pressure

French prime minister Manuel Valls warned earlier this month his country would stop applying existing rules on posted workers if the commission backed down.

Fears that French people lose out on jobs because of “social dumping” - unfair wage competition between workers from different EU countries - have fuelled euroscepticism.

Swedish social democrat MEP Marita Ulvskog told EUobserver in May that commission head Jean-Claude Juncker risked losing his job if he failed to honour the promise to review the directive.

There are 1.9 million posted workers in the EU, representing 0.7 percent of total EU employment. Half of them go to three countries: Germany, France and Belgium.

Poland is the largest sender of posted workers in the EU, followed by Germany and France.

Polish labour minister Elzbieta Rafalska told this website that national parliaments were concerned not only about subsidiarity but also that plans could harm the competitiveness of Polish workers on the internal market.

She worried the EU executive lacked sufficient data for its proposal.

”Just a few years ago the commission stated that the directive, in its current shape, already provides very clear safeguards to protect the social rights of posted workers,” she said.

“The question is whether something has changed since then.”

The commission had claimed the current rules needed to be better applied when putting forward an enforcement directive, a piece of legislation that was to be fully transposed by member states on 18 June.

”I strongly believe that the proposed amendments are premature. We should first evaluate the effects of the enforcement directive. Only then will we have more reliable data,” Rafalska said, urging the commission to withdraw its proposal.

Thyssen told Juri members the enforcement directive gave EU members the tools to apply the rules, but that her proposal aimed to change the rules themselves.

”The laws are perfectly compatible,” she said.

East West divide

Socialist French MEP Guillaume Balas said Thyssen’s statements were “a good start”.

”Anything else would have fuelled fears that Europe can’t be trusted to fight social dumping,” he told EUobserver.

But he stopped short of saying that the proposal would satisfy French socialist and added there was need for a thorough debate on ways to enhance equality between local and posted workers.

”They will be difficult discussions,” he said.

Eastern countries have warned that a review of the posted workers directive would open up old sores between the member states. The "Polish plumber" has been used in the past as a symbol of eastern Europeans stealing jobs.

Balas said it was important not to ignore the concerns of poorer member states.

“I think some of their fears relate to the EU’s inability to address economic imbalances and wage differences between the countries,” he said.

Marita Ulvskog, the Swedish social democrat, told this website she also expected tough talks.

”The sad truth is that there is already a conflict between east and west, even if few people are willing to talk about it in the European Parliament,” she said.

”We will have to live with that,” she added. ”The only way to bridge this conflict is by offering equal rights, rather than pitting workers against each other and cutting back on rights.”

As for the yellow card procedure, Thyssen said her administration would answer each of the parliaments separately because they had raised different concerns.


The college of commissioners will also make a joint statement regarding the question of subsidiarity later this month.

EU shown yellow card on workers' pay

MPs from 11 countries say that a Commission's proposal to establish equal pay between workers from different countries is EU meddling. The Commission could be forced to review its plan.

EU proposes equal pay for posted workers

The EU commission has presented a bill to limit social dumping when states send workers to other states, while unveiling a fresh study to see if Europe's social model is still relevant.

Opinion

EU posted worker reform is blow to single market

Just a few weeks ago after some EU countries made sacrifices on free movement to find a deal with the UK, modifying rules on posted workers will further hit their economies, a Czech minister writes.

EU to tighten rules on social benefits

EU citizens working away from their home countries will face tougher hurdles if they need to claim benefits, under plans from the commission.

News in Brief

  1. ECB's Draghi set to clarify role in secretive G30 group
  2. Half of EU states at risk of missing recycling target
  3. Commission refers Poland to EU top court over rule of law
  4. Open Society Foundation takes Hungary to court
  5. EU court asked to rule on halting Brexit
  6. EU threatens Switzerland on stock trading
  7. Italy's new basic wage restricted to Italians
  8. UK tycoon offers to create pro-Brexit party

Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU

The justice commissioner says the accommodation-rental website will better inform users about prices, and about the legal status of their 'hosts'. Facebook, however, could face sanctions if it doesn't comply with EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Missing signature gaffe for Azerbaijan gas pipeline
  2. Every major city in Europe is getting warmer
  3. No chance of meeting EU renewable goals if infrastructure neglected
  4. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  5. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  6. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  7. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  8. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us