A proposal for a new directive has been designed to reframe the Posted Workers' Directive to prevent perceived abuses, which have been the subject of controversial European Court of Justice rulings (see background).
The proposal to be presented by the Commissioner for employment , László Andor, puts emphasis on the construction sector, where subcontractors hiring workers from other member states would be made jointly liable for workers’ rights enshrined in their home states.
Maxime Cerutti, a director with the employers’ group BusinessEurope, said the proposal lacked impact assessment and would discriminate against the construction sector by miring companies in bureaucracy. He said it would also stifle growth.
But a spokeswoman for the European trades union group, ETUC, told EurActiv the proposal does not go far enough.
“There are other sectors where the same rights should apply to tourism and leisure, why only construction?” the spokeswoman said.
Monti – a clause of his own
More controversially, a new regulation to be published simultaneously will apply fundamental social rights horizontally across the Single Market Act, allowing social protection in cross-border services.
This clause is dubbed 'Monti II', since it reflects a similar clause introduced in 1997 by Mario Monti during his tenure as internal market commissioner, to remove obstacles to the free movement of goods. Monti is now the Italian prime minister.
Cerutti said that the Monti II clause is unsatisfactory because it includes an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, which would have the effect of “Europeanising” strike negotiations.
Under the clause, European social partners may negotiate terms in strikes with a cross-border element.
“The fact that the Treaty [of Rome] exempts the right to strike from EU competencies should be respected,” said Cerutti.
But the ETUC spokeswoman said that the Monti clause fails to address fundamental issues balancing the rights of unions with the judiciary in determining when collective strike action is required.
Deal with Socialists
French MEP Pervenche Berès (Socialists & Democrats), the chair of Parliament's committee on employment and social affairs, has said that Commission President José Manuel Barroso agreed to support the issue when the party endorsed his re-appointment as Commission president in 2009.
The ETUC spokeswoman said that unions will remind Barroso of his pledge, as there was much disappointment over his failure to live up to his word.
Meanwhile both proposals face an uphill battle in the European Parliament.
The directive – which will be subject to co-decision procedure – will face “a fairly strong blocking minority” even though there has been so far no outright disagreement from member states, an EU diplomat told EurActiv.
The Monti II clause will require the unanimous vote of the Council since it is a regulation, but Britain opposes it.
EurActiv understands that the UK agrees with the need for economic dynamism and social justice, but that it believes the regulation is a distraction from Europe’s priority to ensure growth and competitiveness.