Sunday

24th Jun 2018

Eastern EU states lose battle on workers' pay

  • Employment commissioner Marianne Thyssen was grateful for the engagement of national parliaments, but said they were wrong on subsidiarity. (Photo: European Union)

The European Commission has fended off criticism of its proposal to treat posted workers the same way as their local colleagues, amid accusations it would encroach on national legislative powers.

”Posting of workers is a cross-border issue by nature,” said EU commissioner for employment, Marianne Thyssen, on Wednesday (20 July) adding that rules on the matter had been an EU competence for more than 20 years.

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The proposal was presented in March and put on hold in May. Parliaments of 10 former communist countries and Denmark teamed up and raised a so-called yellow card, forcing the commission to double-check whether the draft violated subsidiarity, a principle saying that decisions should be taken at national level whenever possible.

It is only the third time that a legislative draft has angered enough parliaments - more than a third of EU total - to trigger the so-called yellow-card procedure.

Thyssen said she valued a strong dialogue with national parliaments, but added that their concerns over subsidiarity were not justified.

”We have carefully analysed all arguments put forward by national parliaments and discussed their concerns with them. All things considered, we have concluded that our proposal fully complies with the principle of subsidiarity and we will therefore maintain it,” she said at a press conference.

A posted worker is defined by EU law as someone contracted in his or her home country to work in another EU member state.

Less than one percent of EU workers are posted. Poland has the most workers posted to another country, followed by Germany and France. Germany, France and Belgium receive the largest population of posted workers.

Despite their relatively low number, posted workers have become a symbol of "social dumping", competition on the EU labour market by the lowering of standards.

Thyssen said the commission wanted the free movement of people to be based on rules that are "clear, fair for everybody and enforced on the ground".

Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker last year vowed to ensure “the same pay for the same job at the same place”.

But eastern member states fear the proposal will make it more difficult for their nationals to get posted.

Thyssen's legal analysis is unlikely to prevent a long and painful political battle.

Markus J Beyrer, director general of BusinessEurope, the European business federation, said the commission had not taken into account the legitimate political concerns voiced by many national parliaments.

”Despite the warning, the commission decided to maintain another divisive debate among EU member states on posting of workers," he said.

"We must focus on fighting illegal practices and abuses and use the existing rules for it - rather than adding uncertainty, bureaucracy and costs.”

Thyssen said she wanted to ”build bridges” between EU workers, saying that the commission had learnt from Britain’s vote to leave the EU that many Europeans fear globalisation and want the EU to provide more social protection in the internal market.

The European trade union confederation (Etuc) supported the commission’s move and said the 11 governments that participated in the yellow-card procedure acted against the interests of their own workers.

“European posted workers have been exploited long enough. They are not second-class citizens, they deserve a fair salary equal to other workers in host countries,” said ETUC confederal secretary Liina Carr.

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