Currently on European tour, Emmanuel Macron is aiming for a “deep refoundation” of the posted workers EU Directive which he considers to be “a betrayal of the European spirit“. A divided Europe on this directive whose reform is made necessary by a situation of social dumping.
The posted workers directive: a 20-year old text
The 1996 Directive establishes the possibility for an employee to be sent by his employer to another Member State in order to provide a service on a temporary basis. The directive then allows working conditions (including the minimum wage) and social security contributions to be those of the country of origin. By 2015, this directive already involved 285 000 workers and in March 2016 the European Commission introduced a reform on the principle of “equal pay for equal work” to increase wages and limit the duration of secondment. Eleven states then blocked the reform in the name of the principle of subsidiarity.
Social dumping at European level
A situation of unfair competition and the precarious status of these posted workers are regularly denounced by Western European Member States. Indeed, this low-cost workforce allows some firms to be more competitive at the expense of hiring non-detached workers from the host country. Moreover, work conditions and remuneration of posted workers are of concern: hidden workers, unsafe health or safety rules, underpaid workers, etc. Freedom of movement for workers must not be at the expense of social justice, which is essential for equal rights between European citizens. Reform is therefore necessary to ensure the safety of workers in accordance with European policies and programmes.
A difficult but necessary compromise
The reform of this directive is a recurrent divisive issue between countries from Western Europe and countries from Central Europe. Poland and Hungary are particularly opposed to reform. These countries benefit from this regulation, which allows them to offer a competitive workforce on the European market, particularly in the fields of construction and transport. The negotiations are therefore expected to be difficult and will focus on the working time of posted workers, their salaries and the sectors targeted. Klaus Iohannis, the Romanian counterpart of the French President, acknowledged the need to “improve this directive” but without “eliminating competition or the free market” (Le Monde).
As stipulated by the French Minister of Labor, “social Europe must rise to the level of economic Europe” so that the internal market can be a vehicle for growth.
This week, the French President will receive the German, Italian and Spanish heads of government. After this European tour, will a compromise be found to build a more social Europe?
Photo © DG Emploi