18th Mar 2018

EU takes step closer to 'posted workers' deal

  • The revision of the directive is a "balanced package of interest to all European citizens," said the Bulgarian presidency of the EU (Photo: EUobserver)

The EU took a step further towards granting equal pay for equal work when people take a temporary job in another member state - but a final deal is still not guaranteed.

Negotiators from the EU Council - representing member states - the European Parliament and the European Commission last night confirmed most of a previous agreement between EU ministers last October, but more discussions are needed.

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In statement on Thursday morning, they said only that they have reached "a common understanding on the contours of a possible agreement" to revise the so-called posted workers directive.

The current directive dates from 1996, when the EU counted 15 members and did not face massive movements of low paid workers from eastern countries to western states.

In 2016, according to the commission, 2.3 million posting operations took place in the EU. Almost 70 percent were in the industry sector, mainly construction.

"Let's not claim victory yet," the parliament's main negotiator, centre-right MEP Elisabeth Morin-Chartier said at the press conference.

The 'common understanding' will have to be endorsed by EU ambassadors next week, before another round of negotiations between the three institutions - the so-called trilogue - with the aim of a definitive vote at the parliament in June.

Last night's discussion lasted until 1.30AM, in order not to lose the momentum and put quickly a text on the member states' table.

"Everyone want to go fast and avoid having to finish discussion under the Austrian presidency," a source told EUobserver.

The Austrian government, a coalition between the centre-right and the far-right, will take over the rotating council presidency on 1 July, after the current Bulgarian presidency.

Last night's agreement maintains a maximum posting period of 12 months that can be extended for six months "via a motivated notification".

Until now, the parliament wanted to keep the current 24-month maximum posting period, while ministers had agreed to the 12+6 solution as a compromise to please France, which wanted a 12-month limit.

Two years to apply

As a quid pro quo, the Bulgarian EU council presidency agreed to reduce the period to put the new rules in national laws from four years to two. The new directive will also start to be applied at the end of the two-year period even if some member states have failed to transpose them in time.

Under the proposed revision of the directive, the rules will apply to all workers in a sector where there is an agreement between social partners. Currently only construction workers benefit from that principle.

The revised directive would also apply to temporary agency workers and workers in chain posting. So-called non-genuine posted workers - workers employed by empty shells companies, for instance - would also have their rights guaranteed.

A paragraph on subcontractors, which would have obliged contractors to ensure that subcontractors respect the same rules, was however taken out of the revision proposal, because some member states would not accept introducing the rule in their national law.

Another important exception to the new posted workers rules will be the transport sector.

The three institutions agreed to stick to the ministers' agreement and leave a 'lex specialis' on the mobility sector to deal with workers in the sector.

The issue is sensitive for countries like Spain or Poland, which have many lorry drivers working across the EU.

The commission's 'Road Transport Strategy for Europe', which was presented last May, proposed that drivers who work more than three days a month in a member state with higher pay will get a higher pay. It also proposed that all member states apply the posting rules for drivers.

'No red lines'

Bulgarian deputy labour minister Zornitsa Roussinova said that the proposed revision of the directive was a "balanced package of interest to all European citizens".

The EU social affairs commissioner Marianne Thyssen admitted that the revision, which has already failed twice in recent years, was "a difficult file with many sensitivities [and] different emotions".
Thyssen and the other negotiators now expect member states to endorse their compromise.

When ministers agreed on their position in October, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland voted against the compromise, while the UK, Ireland and Croatia abstained.

A source close to the talks noted that with the posting period and the exclusion of drivers, the parliament has made a moved towards member states, and that the former should not block an agreement.

"It's difficult to keep red lines on an issue like this one," the source said.

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.

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.


How Romania became an EU workers' rights 'guinea pig'

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