Monday

9th Dec 2019

EU shown yellow card on workers' pay

  • More than 40 percent of all the seconded workers in the EU are working in the construction sector. (Photo: Michael Tapp)

Eleven EU member states have shown a yellow card to the European Commission over its recent proposal to warrant equal pay to posted workers.

The parliaments of Estonia, Hungary and Slovakia filed complaints - technically known as reasoned opinions - on Tuesday (10 May), hours before the official deadline passed at midnight.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania had already done so.

The yellow card procedure is a way for national parliaments to warn the commission it may be violating subsidiarity, a principle saying that decisions should be taken at lower levels whenever possible.

Parliaments have eight weeks after the commission's proposal is translated into all EU languages to review it and file a complaint if they wish. They need to gather at least a third of the EU parliaments to trigger the procedure.

Given the difficulty of mobilising national parliaments, the mechanism has only been triggered twice before.

A commission spokesperson told EUobserver it would await the deadline before commenting on the issue. It could either scrap the proposal, amend it or leave it as it is.

The revision of the posted workers directive aims to prevent social dumping, the unfair wage competition between workers from different EU countries.

A posted worker is defined by EU law as "an employee who is sent by his employer to carry out a service in another member state for a temporary period".

A Polish diplomat told this website that the commission's proposal not only is a breach of subsidiarity, but furthermore harms the internal market.

The different salary levels in Denmark and Bulgaria, for example, illustrate differences in the level of economic development. They shouldn’t be seen as unfair competition, the diplomat said.

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

”Adopting the proposed changes would eliminate the possibility for entrepreneurs to profit from price competition in the services sector, which in turn would increase costs of services in the EU and reduce the competitiveness of the EU economy”, the official argued.

He warned that a worsening economic climate could unleash eurosceptic sentiments in countries where many posted workers come from and recalled conflicts between member states when similar reviews took place in the past.

A famous example is the so-called ”Polish plumber”, an example used in France to oppose a directive on services when it was under discussion in 2005.

The chair of European Parliament’s employment committee, Thomas Haendel from the German Left Party, urged the commission to uphold the proposal. He even wanted it to go further and put a stronger focus on fighting abuse.

”This should be something no member state can oppose. We need clear rules for equal pay at the same place for the same work including relevant collective agreements and the whole chain sub-contractors needs to be focussed on when it comes to liability,” he said.

Swedish social democrat Marita Ulvskog, also an employment committee member, told the EUobserver it would be difficult for the commission to back away from the proposal.

"President Jean-Claude Juncker has promised that equal pay shall apply to equal work," he said.

"That was a condition for the socialist group to endorse his appointment. It will have great consequences if he doesn't live up to his promise."

She added the 11 countries had different reasons to support a yellow card and the opposition could fall apart. Denmark, for instance, opposed the proposal because it did not go far enough in protecting the Danish system of collective bargaining.

”I’m not surprised that member states use every tool in their tool box to get what they want,” she said.

There were almost two million posted workers in the EU in 2014, representing 0.7 percent of total EU employment.

They are more common in some sectors than others; 44 percent of construction workers are posted in another EU country than their own.

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.

Investigation

MEPs shun commission-led group on future of EU

The European Parliament have decided, on principle, to refuse to take part in any high-level working group organised by the Commission, because it would undermine its ability to scrutinise the executive body.

MEPs mark Violence Against Women day with urgent call

According to liberal MEP Anna Júlia Donáth, "violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations existing today and remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, and shame surrounding it."

News in Brief

  1. Greece denies access to fair asylum process, report says
  2. Report: Self-regulation of social media 'not working'
  3. Turkey: Greek expulsion of Libyan envoy 'outrageous'
  4. Merkel coalition may survive, says new SPD co-leader
  5. Von der Leyen Ethiopia visit a 'political statement'
  6. Over 5,500 scientists ask EU to protect freshwater life
  7. Iran defies EU and UN on ballistic missiles
  8. Committee of the Regions: bigger budget for Green Deal

Stakeholder

FIFA's schools programme aims to reach 700m children

Football clubs today invest huge sums of money in youth development and court talented young players from an early age. Children are the future – not only where football is concerned, but also for society in general.

Opinion

A fundamental contradiction in EU drug policy

The knock-on affects from a 'war on drugs' in Europe is creating problems in Albania - and as far afield as Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. Russia makes big promises to Arctic peoples on expansion
  2. UK election plus EU summit in focus This WEEK
  3. Migrants paying to get detained in Libyan centres
  4. Searching for solidarity in EU asylum policy
  5. Will Michel lead on lobbying transparency at Council?
  6. Blood from stone: What did British PR firm do for Malta?
  7. EU Commission defends Eurobarometer methodology
  8. Timmermans warns on cost of inaction on climate

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us