The European Council for employment and social affairs has approved a general approach to the new posted workers directive, meant to revise earlier regulations that date back to 1996.
The new directive aims to facilitate the provision of services across the EU, at the same time ensuring fair competition and the rights of posted workers, which are people employed in one member state and sent by their employer to work temporarily in another state.
Put forth by the European Commission in March 2016, the proposed directive shot to the top of EU’s agenda after the election of Emmanuel Macros as president of France. France, which has one of the highest rates of “posted workers” in the EU, sees such employees – hired in the lower-income countries from Eastern Europe to work in jobs in Western European countries, while at the same time remaining subject to the labour laws from their country of origin – as undercutting it own domestic labour force.
Macron embarked on a tour of Eastern Europe in August to enlist support for his initiative for tighter restrictions on posted workers. He visited Bulgaria, among several other countries, where he received the support of both Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and President Radev.
In the intervening months, Borissov has said that one exception should be made for transport workers, whose status should be settled by separate regulations for their industry.
That point was agreed by the labour ministers at the European Council on social affairs on October 23. A statement after the meeting said that the amendments from the posted workers directive that affected transport workers would only apply from the date of entry into force of the “forthcoming sector-specific legislation.”
The other provisions agreed by the labour ministers were that the remuneration of posted workers would be in accordance with host member state law and practices, long-term postings of 12 months could only be extended by six months, posted workers would be subject to “universally applicable collective agreements” in all sectors, and equal treatment of temporary agency workers and local workers.
Approval of the council’s general approach on the proposed directive was hailed by Marianne Thyssen, European commissioner for employment, social affairs, skills and labour mobility. She said: “Our position from the beginning has been that workers should earn the same pay for the same work in the same place. I am glad Member States broadly support this. This is fair for the posted workers, who deserve equal working conditions. And this is fair for local workers and employers who don’t want to be undercut on wages.”
Now that the European Council has reached agreement on its general approach, it can begin negotiations on this topic with the European Parliament. Considering the usual length of such talks, it is likely that the negotiations will still be underway in the first half of 2018, when Bulgaria will hold the rotating presidency of the EU for six months and the country’s Labour and Social Policy Minister, Bisser Petkov, will chair the European Council for employment and social affairs.
(Photo: Sébastien Bertrand)