European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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11 March 2016

Posted workers reform: no panacea for trade unions

European trade union organisations have reacted frostily to the proposal to reform the posted workers directive presented by the Commission on 9 March. Notwithstanding the slogan ‘equal pay for equal work’ chosen by the Commission to promote the reform the trade unions consider that this principle will be hard to enforce and that the new text will not favour more effective efforts against the most extreme exploitative practices affecting posted workers.

According to the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) the draft directive excludes sectoral collective agreements in some countries from its scope of application and all enterprise collective agreements. The upshot is that the principle of the same pay for the same work in the same workplace is likely to prove impossible to enforce everywhere. Commenting on the text proposed by the Commission ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini declared: ‘We appreciate Commission’s intentions and efforts, but the solution proposed is not satisfactory. It is equal pay that many posted workers will never get’.

‘It is difficult to see how the current proposal for a revision of the directive would make a difference in the fight against social dumping’, wonders the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW). Like the ETUC, the EFBWW takes the view that some posted workers will not receive the same pay as host country workers due to differences between Member States with regard to collective bargaining. The EFBWW seems sceptical of the effectiveness of the new text in combating exploitation of posted workers. The union federation believes that the directive falls short of stemming such fraudulent practices as bogus self-employment and letterbox companies.

This concern is shared by Magdalena Bernaciak, an ETUI researcher, who recently published a working paper on ‘social dumping’.

‘The abuses related to employee posting and freedom of establishment should be addressed by better implementation and clarification of the existing rules, their improved enforcement and closer cooperation between national controlling bodies’, she says.

Her colleague Béla Galgóczi also considers that the real issues lie elsewhere than in a new revision of the posted workers directive. ‘The focus should be put on closing existing loopholes, first of all the widespread use of posting by temporary agencies and letter box firms. This is truly social dumping’, he commented.

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