Wednesday

23rd May 2018

Member states eye agreement on posted workers

  • The treatment of the transport sector remains one of the main blocking points in the discussion. (Photo: EUobserver)

After months of negotiations, EU member states are trying to break a deadlock in discussions over the revision of a directive on posted workers before a crucial meeting next Monday (23 October).

The issue revolves around differing pay levels for workers temporarily posted in another EU country compared with native workers.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • "We had to go against the idea that there are emitter countries and receiver countries," said EU parliament rapporteur Elisabeth Morin-Chartier. (Photo: European Parliament)

"A deal is within reach," an EU official said on Tuesday.

But he warned that some elements of the discussions would "demand a political compromise."

Diplomats will try on Wednesday to prepare the ground for employment ministers, who meet in Luxembourg next Monday.

Discussions between some EU leaders will also take place on the margins of the EU summit on Thursday and Friday in order to overcome the last blocking points.

"We cross fingers" that a deal will be reached on Monday, so that it doesn't go up to the EU leaders at their next summit in December, said another official.

The issue has been controversial since the European Commission proposed in March last year to revise a directive dating back from 1996.

Arguments over 'duration'

Diplomats admit that different groups of countries are still at loggerheads on issues like the duration of long-term posting, the date of application of the new rules and the transition period; or the treatment of the transport sector.

The commission is proposing that the directive applies on postings for 24 months, before workers fall under national labour laws.

Since Emmanuel Macron came to power in spring, France has been insisting on applying the directive only for 12 months, while some other countries would like six months.

Another major stumbling point is whether lorry drivers should be included in the scope of the directive.

France wants them to be considered as posted workers, in order to protect its national sector. Paris is supported in its demands by Germany, Austria and the Benelux countries - Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg.

Countries like Spain, Portugal and Poland, whose transport sector is active across Europe, reject the idea. Others, whose economy is mainly based on exports, like Slovenia, also want transport to be treated differently.

 The blocking countries argue that a mobility package proposed by the commission in June would be enough to regulate the sector.

Under the rules proposed by the commission, a driver would be guaranteed a higher remuneration after being "at least for three days in a month in a member state with higher pay rate."

"On this issue, contrary to others in the directive, there is a blocking minority" to exclude drivers, a diplomat told EUobserver, insisting that "all sides will have to make a compromise."

Member states are under more pressure to find an agreement after MEPs in the employment committee adopted on Monday a report setting out the the European Parliament's position.

The report is expected to be adopted by the plenary on 26 October.

If member states succeed in agreeing on Monday, final negotiations between the EU Council, where member states meet, and parliament could then start before the end of the year.

Equal pay for equal work

The parliament's report, elaborated on by Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, a French centre-right MEP, and Dutch centre-left Agnes Jongerius, include new elements to the commission's proposal.

"The objective is to ensure a fair competition between companies and fight against social dumping, in order to guarantee a fundamental freedom, the free movement of services, but also the free movement of workers," Morin-Chartier said about the compromise found in the parliament.

"We had to have a new look at the 1996 directive in the light of today's Europe and of this political objective: equal pay for equal work," she said.

The text proposes to extend the directive's legal basis, to make it relevant to the social legislation and not only to the freedom of services legislation.

In order to achieve the principle of 'equal pay for equal work', it also proposes that "allowances specific to the posting shall be considered to be part of remuneration" and that "expenditure on travel, board and lodging … shall be provided for by the employer and shall not be deducted from remuneration."

The parliament proposal also states that "for the calculation of the remuneration, all mandatory elements, laid down by law, applicable collective agreements or arbitration awards, should be taken into account, provided that these elements are also applied at local level."

"We had to get out out of the rut that was the issue of different payslips," Morin-Chartier noted, explaining that "it is the key of the use of posted workers to do social dumping between workers and create unfair competition between companies".

The parliament's text is a compromise between political groups but also between MEPs from different countries, on an issue that has pitted some eastern members states against western countries.

"We needed clear political lines," the French MEP said. "We had to go against the idea that there are emitter countries and receiver countries. There are posted workers all across Europe."

"I didn't see much difference in the parliament's position to where the council is at the discussion now," noted one of the EU officials.

He said that discussion between member states over the equal pay for equal work were "very much in line" with the parliament's position.

Much of an agreement in the council on Monday, and with the parliament later will depend on the French position.

A Macron priority

Macron, who toured the eastern EU in the summer, has made the issue a top one on his political agenda and has obliged others to take a position themselves over his demands.

But while he has made the 12-month duration of posting a key element in the discussion, he could back down if others of his demands are met.

Between 90 and 93 percent of posted workers work no longer than 12 months, and the average duration of their work is 44 days.

"What is the meaning of 'set a duration'? It is much more important to set the length of the mission with very clear rules that can be controlled," said Morin-Chartier.

The parliament's proposition is "not at 100-percent the French position, but it contains very important progress," a French source said on Tuesday, pointing out to anti-fraud mechanisms that are included in the text.

The source said the French government also hopes that "a good agreement" will be reached by ministers on Monday at the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) meeting.

Paris expects that a package that includes the revision of the directive as well as an EU regulation on social security will be adopted.

"With Macron, we are looking at the same finish line," Morin-Chartier noted. "France really wants to succeed on this text."

But agreement wil also depends on how France's views reconcile with those of countries like Spain, Poland of Hungary.

"There is one more EPSCO before the end of the year, and we could agree after in a week or two.. It is not like we want to go forward at any cost," one of the EU officials said.

MEPs set out to give posted workers equal pay

A revision of the posted workers directive aims to make the single market fairer, but critics see efforts to root out "social dumping" as disguised protectionism.

Opinion

Macron goes east to test appetite for EU integration

The next few months will be decisive in selecting who stays in the core of the EU and who stays behind, writes Tomas Prouza, a former state secretary for European Affairs of the Czech Republic.

EU overcomes divisions on posted workers

After a 12-hour discussion, EU employment ministers struck a compromise to reform the rules on workers posted in another country. The principle of equal pay for equal work has been adopted but the transport sector will get special treatment.

Agenda

Posted workers top EU agenda This Week

The posted workers file will be on the table of ministers and MEPs this week, while budget, journalism, Schengen and party funding are also on the EP's plenary menu.

Opinion

Paying a high cost: EU's role in Spain's painful health cuts

The EU should either conduct, or ask states to conduct, human rights impact assessments of country-specific recommendations to ensure that the implementation of austerity measures does not result in reduced human rights protections.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. 'Killer robot' projects eligible for EU defence fund
  2. Funding for European values needs radical changes
  3. Feeble EU format deflates Zuckerberg 'hearing'
  4. Are EU data watchdogs staffed for GDPR?
  5. EU pessimistic on permanent US trade exemption
  6. US asks EU to go after Russian and African villains
  7. Facebook threatened with removal from EU-US data pact
  8. Defence firms 'reap benefits' of advice to EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  2. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  3. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  6. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  7. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  8. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  9. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  10. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  11. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  12. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations