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Labour ministers hammer out agreement on posted workers

Dec 10, 2013 | News

(10 December 2013) – EU labour ministers gave initial approval to tougher rules on employing cheap temporary workers, responding to political unease at a time of record joblessness.

Ministers agreed to curtail abuses of European Union law that enable companies to temporarily move cheaper, foreign workers from one EU country to another, but which France said amounts to social dumping.

Each year, more than a million workers are moved by employers across EU borders to work chiefly in construction, farming, hospitality and road haulage. Companies shift workers across Europe to high-wage centres to take advantage of cheap employment taxes in their home countries.

Yesterday’s agreement will force companies to provide more documentation, proving that the contracts for workers are bona fide. This will be an “open list” of documents that each country will be able to determine according to their national law.

While France championed the case for stricter enforcement, eastern European countries such as Hungary and Slovakia whose workers benefit, showed reluctance to toughen them up. They were joined by Britain which feared that tougher EU rules could stifle the ability for UK companies to do business abroad.

An area of particular worry was the massive use of sub-contractors in the construction business which opened the way to abuses of social law. Sub-contractors will now be liable via the company which employs them. “Member states shall provide for measures ensuring that in subcontracting chains, posted workers can hold the contractor, of which the employer is a direct subcontractor, liable, in addition to or in place of the employer,” reads the text of the agreement.

At the request of Britain, these provisions will apply only to the construction sector. The agreement was helped by the shifting position of Poland, which ended up backing France in supporting a deal. Only the United Kingdom, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia and Malta voted against. The revised directive will now fall to negotiations between EU countries and the European Parliament, which also has a say in lawmaking, to flesh out the broad deal agreed by labour ministers. It could be several months before a final accord is reached. (With EurActiv)

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