The posted workers directive adopted on 9 December by the EU ministers for employment and social affairs has become a central topic in the French campaign for the European Parliament elections.
On 11 December, at the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the issue prompted an angry exchange between the president of the employment committee of the European Parliament, Pervenche Berès, and far-right MEP Marine Le Pen.
“Modified or not, it’s the same,” Marine Le Pen said at a conference, calling the directive a “terrifying ticking time bomb” for the social cohesion of the country and it should be completely withdrawn in her opinion.
The compromise text is the result of 18-month long negotiations in the Parliament's employment and social affairs committee, headed by Berès.
“Finding a compromise on this issue while we have posted workers supplier countries on one side and countries receiving them on the other, it’s not easy,” French centre-right MEP Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, member of the employment committee said, questioning Le Pen’s legitimacy to talk about it.
“She is a member of this committee but we have never seen her at any of our meetings! She never tabled any amendment on this issue! How can she use it as a topic for her campaign?” the MEP asked.
According to figures from Votewatch.eu, Marine Le Pen’s participation in the parliamentary activities in the EU is one of the weakest: she is 684th out of 764 MEPs in terms of participation, while Pervenche Berès is in the first quarter.
Both Morin-Chartier and Berès stressed that the directive was more favourable to the French than to any other EU member state. An estimated 180,000 French citizens are expats across Europe, while there are less foreign posted workers in France.
For Elisabeth Morin-Chartier it is important to act fast so that the compromise reached in the Council can be adopted.
“We requested the Lithuanian presidency to put the topic on the agenda in December but it will not be possible before January. We must be able to amend it under this legislature. It’s a crucial issue for social Europe,” the MEP said.
The debate is ongoing on the control modalities. The European commissioner in charge of the internal market, Michel Barnier, proposed last week to put in place a European control body for posted workers, which is supported by many MEPs.
>> Read the interview with Pervenche Berès on low-cost workers (in French)
The French government shows strong commitment over the issue. The transport minister, Frédéric Cuvellier, took part in road freight controls, after Hervé Montjotin, CEO of the freight company Norbert-Dentressengle, published an op-ed last Thursday (12 December).
“France must now draw all the consequences from the enlarged Europe to 28: markets are open, the movement of goods and people developed speedily but the regulations specific to certain professions are poorly adapted,” the CEO wrote.