Posted workers become new EU battleground
A protectionist measure or basic justice for workers. Those are the basic dividing lines over European Commission plans to draw up more stringent rules on so-called “posted workers” which are dividing states along old and new member fault lines with the Czech Republic firmly in the latter camp.
The European Commissioner for labour and social relations Marianne Thyssen last week rejected challenges from 11 countries – including the Czech Republic – that the proposed new rules represent excessive Commission intervention in an area where national parliaments should be making the laws. Brussels vowed to press on.
The fundamental reasoning is that this is a cross border issue – affecting at least the country where the worker is temporarily based and the home country, and therefore the Commission has the right to intervene. And there are the added suspicions that the current weak rules on such posted workers is resulting in so called social dumping, where foreign workers are sent for sustained periods abroad on their local wages and some token top up allowance.
The Czech government has vowed, along with regional partners from Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland, to oppose the planned new rules, complaining that they represent the sort of bureaucratic meddling which the Commission was supposed to be abstaining from.
It’s in the road haulage sector that some of the fears are greatest with the worry that truck drivers regularly moving shipments through high wage cost counties will be bound to pay the minimum local wages there as well as social contributions.
Minimum wages for French lorry drivers amount to around the equivalent of 50,000 crowns a month. Ironically, the European Commission has started proceedings with regard to both German and French laws as to whether they break its single market rules.
In the case of road haulage, there is little doubt that haulage companies employing “expensive” western drivers are suffering from the competition with their counterparts from Central Europe, the Baltics, Romania, and to a lesser extent Spain and Portugal. Many of the lorries seen on the roads in Germany and France clearly come from the latter countries and figures show that the Polish, Baltic, or Czech driver now rule the autobahn and autoroute when it comes to long distance cargo.