Thursday

20th Feb 2020

MEPs set out to give posted workers equal pay

  • Almost half of all seconded workers in the EU are working in the construction sector. (Photo: Michael Tapp)

MEPs discussed for the first time on Thursday (23 March) the more than 500 amendments tabled to revise the directive that regulates conditions of employees sent to another member state for a limited period of time.

French centre-right MEP Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, one of the co-rapporteurs of the dossier brought to the European Parliament's employment committee, said however that the number of amendments wasn't particularly high when contrasted with the importance of the issue.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

So-called posted workers account for just 0.7 percent of the labour force in Europe, but have been at the heart of a long-standing political controversy between EU member states.

In March 2016, the European Commission proposed a revision to the current legal framework, which richer states say is a cause of "social dumping".

The proposal is "about one thing," the EU executive's president Jean-Claude Juncker said in November: "Making sure that, wherever you work in Europe, a single principle applies: equal pay for equal work in the same place, and that is going to be implemented whatever the opposition."

The commission's own figures show that posted workers sometimes only earn half of what their colleagues working in the same company receive.

Eastern member states say they need to compete on lower wages and working conditions, and that attempts to scrap their competitive advantage go against the freedom of movement and services in the EU single market.

Moliere clause

There have also been accusations of racism.

With the upcoming presidential and legislative elections in France, which hosts some 300,000 posted workers, several regions have introduced a so-called "clause Moliere", named after the 17th century playwright.

The clause, introduced in public tenders, says that construction workers on public projects must speak French for safety reasons.

Morin-Chartier said she was fighting fiercely against the clause, and had managed to stop it in the French parliament.

Noting that most of the clauses had been introduced by politicians from her own Republican party, she said "some people have less of a European spirit."

"But this clause has to be fought, because it means the unravelling of the freedom of services, movement of people and workers."

She said that she and the other co-rapporteur Agnes Jongerius, a Dutch social democrat, would aim to preserve the commission's proposal of equal pay for equal work.

"We have to preserve social notions and send a clear signal to workers that we share their concerns. Open any newspaper today and you will see that the main cause of angst today is work," she said.

The two MEPs also seek to extend the legal basis of the posted workers directive to employment legislation, instead of it being solely based on the single market.

"We have to protect fundamental rights: the freedom of movement and the right to seek work abroad, but also workers' rights," Jongerius said.

The issue of posted workers has so far only been seen as a single market issue because two member states - Portugal and the UK - wielded their veto against a proposal to base the legislation on workers rights protection when the law was introduced in the late 1990s.

Differences remain

Back then, posted workers were a rare phenomena. The number, albeit still quite small, is growing at a fast pace.

According to the commission, there were over 1.9 million postings in the EU in 2014, an increase of 10 percent compared to the year before, and of 44.4 percent in comparison to 2010.

The co-rapporteurs welcomed their colleagues' cooperative spirit, and said it was important that the parliament was united on the file, to strengthen its bargaining position with the Council, where the governments of EU member states are represented.

But important differences remain.

Around 70 amendments related to the maximum length of the posting of workers. While the commission has proposed to keep the current limit of 24 months, some want to limit it to 3, 6 or 12 months, while others wish to extend the time limit to 36 months, or scrap it altogether.

Members also disagree on which collective agreements should apply to posted workers. Some said they should be covered by sectoral accords, while other MEPs said that only the basic pacts should apply to posted workers.

Representatives of all the political groups will meet on 5 April to discuss ways to take the file forward.

Will coronavirus lead to medicine shortage in EU?

The European Commission is ready to launch a joint procurement of medical supplies and to mobilise EU funding instruments, although no shortages have been identified in the EU so far, the commissioner for health Stella Kyriakides said on Thursday.

News in Brief

  1. EU unveils white paper on AI and data strategy
  2. Dutch court rules against Russia in €46bn Yukos case
  3. Britain to bar 'Polish plumber-type' migrants
  4. Greece seeks EU help to get back classical statues from UK
  5. HSBC to cut 35,000 jobs worldwide
  6. Regions chief appeals against cutting EU cohesion funds
  7. Verhofstadt criticises UK Brexit negotiator
  8. Turkish court acquits Gezi park activists

Polish 'LGBTI-free zones' not ok, says EU commission

The European Commissioner for equality Helena Dalli has said the distribution of 'LGBTI-free zones' stickers or the adoption of anti-LGBTI resolutions cannot be allowed. Some 86 towns in Poland have so far declared themselves 'LGBTI-free zones'.

Feature

Paradox: Nordics' privileged youth feel miserable

Young people in the Nordic countries are among the most privileged in the world - yet many of them feel miserable. The Nordic Council is concerned and aims to find out why.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Latest News

  1. EU leaders face major clash on rule of law budget link
  2. North Macedonia warns EU on 'dirtiest ever' election
  3. Western 'endarkenment' and the voodoo politics of Europe
  4. Warning of agricultural 'digital arms race' in EU
  5. Cayman Islands put on tax-haven blacklist after Brexit
  6. Boris' Brexit bluff? - UK will resist alignment to the end
  7. US still open to Kosovo-Serbia land swap
  8. EU countries enter final phase of budget talks

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us