Thursday

1st Oct 2020

EU overcomes divisions on posted workers

  • The revision aims to modify current rules and allow people who work temporarily in another member state to earn as much as workers in the country where they are posted. (Photo: Wonderlane)

EU employment ministers struck a compromise on Monday (23 October) to reform the 1996 directive on posted workers.

The new deal, based on a 2016 European Commission proposal, aims to modify current rules and allow people who work temporarily in another member state to earn as much as workers in the country where they are posted.

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The issue has divided the EU down the middle, with Western member states backing a change and Eastern countries supporting the status quo, which gives them a competitive edge - due to their cheaper labour force.

The reform was strongly backed by French president Emmanuel Macron, with support also coming from Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Austria.

Monday's agreement took almost 12 hours of talks and corridor negotiations, during which several member states expressed highly divergent opinions.

Employment commissioner Marianne Thyssen, who participated in the debate, said the final compromise is "balanced" and shows that, as Europeans, "we can reach agreements".

The deal reaffirms the principle of "the same pay for the same work in the same place", as stated in commission's proposal.

Twelve-month post

Ministers agreed to set the duration of posting to 12 months, with a possible six-month extension, in specific cases and when notified to authorities.

Member states have been divided between those who supported the commission's proposal of 24 months, instead of 30 under the current rules, as a good compromise, and others like France, which considered 12 months, or even less, to be more adequate.

The transport sector will be included in the posting rules, as requested by France, but ministers agrees on a special mechanism to take into account the "mobile nature" of the work.

To overcome opposition from countries such as Spain, Portugal and Ireland, the rules will only be applied when a specific law for the sector, which was presented by the commission earlier this year, comes into force.

Ministers also backed a proposal for a four-year transition period to introduce the revised directive into their national legal systems.

In a separate package on social security, which was quickly adopted late in the evening, they also supported a reinforcement of controls, to fight the fraud on posted workers rules.

Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland voted against the compromise, with the UK, Ireland and Croatia abstaining over concerns that the new rules would hurt their transport industries.

'Ambitious agreement'

Estonian labour minister Jevgeni Ossinovski, who chaired the talks under his country's EU presidency, expressed "satisfaction" for the outcome of "crucial negotiations for the future of the all European Union."

On Twitter, Macron welcomed "an ambitious agreement," which will mean "more protection" and "less fraud."

Member states states will now enter discussions with the European Parliament to agree on a final version of the directive's revision.

Last week, the parliament's employment committee adopted a draft position, which will be put to a vote by all MEPs on Thursday.

One of the main difficulties in the upcoming discussion could be the parliament's proposal to extend the legal basis of the directive - to make it relevant to the social legislation and not only to the freedom of services laws.

EU posted workers face hurdles

Negotiations among the EU institutions will start soon, but could be difficult on several issues - like the inclusion of the transport sector or the duration of a posting.

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