Monday

19th Aug 2019

EU posted workers face hurdles

  • MEPs will "make sure that the revision strikes the right balance between the freedom to provide services and better protecting workers." (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

After the agreement on the revision of the posted workers directive reached by member states on Monday (23 October), European institutions will soon start negotiations to formally adopt the proposal.

Talks between the Council, which represents member states, the European Commission and the European Parliament – the so-called trilogues - could start in November, after the European Parliament has adopted its position, in vote planned for Thursday.

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The negotiations could bring more changes to any final agreement.

"Things are moving in the right direction, but the devil is in the details," noted Elisabeth Morin-Chartier and Agnes Jongerius, the two EU Parliament's rapporteurs on the file.

"I don't have a crystal ball" on what will happen, said an EU official, adding however that "the number of issues on the table is fairly limited".

Negotiators have "a good basis to come to an agreement as soon as possible," the official added.

Marathon talks

On Monday night, after a 12-hour discussion between EU ministers in Luxembourg, Estonian employment minister Jevgeni Ossinovski explained it took so long because a "broader support for the topic" was needed in order to have "a stronger mandate" for the trilogue.

While the compromise was well received by member states and the European Commission, it was criticised on Tuesday by some MEPs, as well as employers and business associations.

Monday's agreement was "a total defeat for France in this negotiation," the French socialist delegation in the EU Parliament said in a statement.

It said the compromise creates "the conditions for legal social dumping" in the transport sector as well as an "intolerable discrimination between workers" according to their sectors.

It was "a bad compromise driven by political symbolism," according to Business Europe's director general Markus Beyrer.

However, the EU official noted that "it's not abnormal that social partners keep pressure on institutions" before the trilogue.

EU employment commissioner Marianne Thyssen also said that "there are always differences" at the start of trilogue negotiations, but that the institutions will "sit together, exchange views and try to convince each other to find a good positive compromise."

One of the main areas of confrontation will be the refusal by member states to put the directive under article 153 of the EU treaty, as required by the Parliament.

This would extend the legal basis for the directive from the freedom of services regulations to EU social law as well.

"Ministers want a text aiming at the good functioning of internal market" said Belgian Green MEP Philippe Lamberts, while "the Parliament is eager to protect workers".

He said that what seems to be just a "technical-legal point of view" was "extremely important" in "case of conflicts over the interpretation of the rules".

Commissioner Thyssen said that "it is difficult to combine" both "internal market legislation and minimum rules". She added that even "legal advice from the institutions were against this 'double legal' base."

Hit the road

The compromise reached by ministers about the new rules of posting applied to road transport will be another probable battlefield during the trilogue.

In the draft position adopted by the European Parliament's employment committee on 16 October, MEPs voted in favour of the posting of workers' directive to remain in place for road transport until a new specific text is approved, "to prevent legal loopholes".

But ministers on Monday decided to wait until the new law on mobility and transport - a so-called "lex specialis" proposed by the Commission in May - is adopted and applied, before the transport sector falls under the posting rules.

Rights of transport workers "remain without a warranty in the absence of real measures to strengthen controls on the application of the original directive," Green MEP Karima Delli said on Tuesday.

Delli, who chairs the transport committee in the Parliament, called on MEPs "to wage the fight to ensure the length of [transport workers'] rights, ensuring that the lex specialis are not a pretext for cutting them".

The lengths of postings will also be a key part of the discussion.

Under French pressure, who wanted a 12-month limit, compared to 30 months under the current directive and 24 months proposed by the Commission, ministers agreed on 12-months, with a possibility for a six-month extension in exceptional cases.

But the Parliament is supporting a 24-month limit, as part of a compromise to gather support from eastern and western MEPs.

Other differences include the transition period before member states transpose the revised directive into their national law. Ministers agreed on four-year period while MEPs support a two-year transition.

Ministers also decided to exclude subcontractors from the directive, while MEPs think that it is an important element to regulate the posted workers market.

Morin-Chartier and Jongerius, the two rapporteurs, said that they will "make sure that the revision strikes the right balance between the freedom to provide services and better protecting workers."

"Compromises have to be made. That means gives and takes and we'll see where the landing ground is," the official noted.

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.

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Negotiators from the member states, EU Parliament and Commission reached a 'common understanding' to guarantee equal pay for equal work in the EU. They hope to reach a final agreement in June.

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