Truckers from western Europe break posted workers rules, Czech border checks show

Truck drivers from Western Europe rarely have the necessary documents when driving abroad,, border checks by the Czech authorities have shown. [JKilian/ Shutterstock]

Employers from the western EU Member States don’t stick to the rules when it comes to posted workers, a series of checks conducted by the Czech Republic has shown.

According to the Enforcement Directive introduced in 2014, posted workers are obliged to keep specific documents in their workplace.

These documents include an employment contract, time sheets indicating the start, end and duration of the daily working time and proof of payment of wages. Furthermore, all the information has to be provided in the language of the country where the employee was sent.

Those rules also apply to truck drivers, but as checks on border crossings have shown, none of the drivers from Germany, Austria, Italy or other countries are aware of their duties.

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On the other hand, eastern European drivers had all the necessary documents in several European languages.

“The letter for Commissioner Bulc, which summarises the conclusions of the inspections, is already prepared. It will be sent also to the other EU countries,” Tomáš Neřold, a spokesperson of the Czech transport ministry, told EURACTIV.cz.

East-west dispute

The discrepancy between the eastern and western member states in this matter emerged after Germany, France and Austria had introduced a national statutory minimum wage (so-called MiLog and Loi Macron) for all foreign workers, including truck drivers.

This measure was perceived negatively in the eastern states because their wages are much lower than wages in states such as Germany or France. The criticism was first raised after a Czech truck driver was fined in Germany because of his low wage.

“These are protectionist measures applied under the label of social dumping, which lead to a violation of the basic principles of the EU internal market,” says Jana Radová, head of the Brussels office of the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic.

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The introduction of minimum wage legislation is also criticised by the European Commission, which launched an infringement procedure against the application of the French and German minimum wage legislation to the transport sector.

To solve this dispute, the Commission at first claimed that transportation sector could be included in the revision of the posted workers directive. It would mean that a Czech driver passing by Germany should have the same wage as a German driver.

But the Commission proposed new legislation this year aimed at the transport sector. Still, this “mobility package” is far from what eastern member states expected because the proposed rules could damage the competitiveness of Czech businesses, Czech transport companies argue.

That is why the Czech Republic launched the initiative focused on checking road transport workers sent from abroad – to let western countries know that they are not following existing rules and setting new stricter legislation is not a good idea.

“This initiative was a clever move. It is a new argument for future negotiations and there is still chance to change the revision of posting of workers in the transport sector,” explained Czech MEP Martina Dlabajová (ANO, ALDE), a shadow rapporteur for the revision of posting of workers directive.

According to Dlabajová, the results of border checks prove that rules on posting or workers are used only to protect western markets from low-cost competition from the east.

The transport ministry agrees with Dlabajová and also points out that posting of workers is abused by politicians as a subject of populist promises.

“But politicians of western countries do not explain the other side of the coin, especially the impact of their political proposals on their own business,” spokesman Neřold added.

No fines, only brochures

The ministry of transport, in cooperation with the ministry of labour and social affairs checked 58 drivers; most of them were German and Polish. There were also seven drivers from countries outside the European Union.

Drivers without the necessary documents did not receive fines. They were only notified of the duties and received an information brochure.

The Czech Republic calls on other states to start similar preventive checks as well and to push transport companies to follow the rules on the posting of workers.