Kalfin: Expect long discussions over revision of Posted Workers directive

Ivailo Kalfin [Georgi Gotev]

Long and lively discussions in between the member states, and between the member states and the European Parliament, are expected in light of the anticipated revision of the Posted Workers Directive, Ivailo Kalfin, Deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria, told a small group of journalists in Brussels.

Kalfin, Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria for Demographic and Social Policies and Minister of Labor and Social Policy, was in Brussels on 23 October for a meeting with Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Commissioner Marianne Thyssen.

One of the issues discussed has been the Mobility Package currently prepared by the Commission, which it intends to bring forward by the end of the year. Its aim is reportedly to prevent errors, abuse and fraud linked to workers providing services abroad.

This issue was raised after the “old” EU members wrote a letter to the Commission, asking for an important revision of the Posted Workers directive (Directive 96/71/EC), which in their wires allows the circumventing EU labour rules.

The new EU members, including Bulgaria, wrote another letter to the Commission, reiterating that the 1971 directive was supplemented in 2014 by a directive on its enforcement, which is due to be transposed in national law by 2016. Since the directive on the enforcement of the Posted Workers directive is not yet enforced, those countries see no purpose in considering any revisions.

The next move is by the Commission, which is expected to submit legislative proposals before the end of the year. The proposals will reflect the political idea of Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, in his State of the Union speech: “The same pay for the same job at the same place.”

>>Read: European executive promises convergence on social rights

Such a package, Kalfin said, would be of a “very sensitive character” and debates could last “up to the Bulgarian presidency” of the Council of the EU, which is due in the second half of 2018, if not further.

Kalfin said he told Thyssen that the principle of free movement of labour in the EU, as well as the rights of posted workers, should be preserved.

“I have no problems discussing any issues which would level the conditions in which posted workers work”, said Kalfin. He stated that often the posted workers work in much more difficult and dangerous conditions than local workers, citing his Swedish colleague who told him that in her country, posted workers were 0.3% of the working force, but 10% of all deadly working accidents were with posted workers.

“While the Commissioner says their proposal will focus on the pay, I would enlarge the discussion to the working conditions, which includes working hours, overtime work, holidays, working conditions, living conditions,” he said.

Kalfin said he had raised the question of the situation of domestic workers, who live with families in richer countries, who have no social security whatsoever, no written contracts, no defined working time, and no rights. According to Kalfin, when the posted workers package is discussed, these issues should not be neglected.

The Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister said he proposed the creation of a personal social card for every EU citizen to Thyssen, which would contain the information of his employment history, with details about the payment received and the social insurance paid.

Kalfin also said that an open issue was if workers should benefit from child benefits, even if their children don’t live in the country where they work. He said Bulgaria would insist that those workers receive child benefits.

Youth Guarantee a success in Bulgaria

The “Youth Guarantee” tackling youth unemployment across Europe works well in Bulgaria, the Kalfin shattering preconceived ideas that the Commission’s initiative was ineffective and too bureaucratic.

>>Read: Auditors unaware if “Youth Guarantee” has provided a single job yet

Bulgaria has a rate of youth unemployment of 15.3% registered in September, which is far below the EU average, Kalfin said (see background). He stressed however that there were specificities in his country, such as lack of motivation of young people. This, he explained, was due to the fact that job opportunities were often linked to moving to another town or city. Young people who receive remittances from parents working abroad are reluctant to work against modest salaries, he said.

In Bulgaria, since the beginning of 2015, 63,000 young people under the age of 29 have been registered as unemployed under the Youth Guarantee program. Apersonal profile has been made for each of them, which means that they have been interviewed, their level of education has been assessed, that their expectations and requirements have been registered, that they have seen a psychologist, all very helpful information for finding a job, Kalfin explained.

As a result, 29,000 have already found non-subsidised jobs, and 10,700 have found jobs subsidised under the program, Kalfin said.

“The Youth Guarantee is a successful and well-functioning program in Bulgaria,” said Kalfin who explained that 100 working mediators have been hired thanks to the program, and that those were bringing unemployed young people to the employment offices. There young people receive training on how to write a CV, how to pass a job interview, those who wish so are provided with training in different areas.

Kalfin said that budgeting for the Youth Guarantee was available until 2018, and expressed the hope that new funding would become available. Up to 2018, the program has made €55 million available to Bulgaria for tackling youth unemployment.

On 3-4 December, Bulgaria will host an Asia-Europe meeting (ASEM) of ministers for social affairs, gathering the 28 EU members, Switzerland, Norway and 21 Asian countries, Kalfin also said. The main topic will be working conditions and youth employment. 

In December 2012, the European Commission presented a proposal aimed at tackling youth unemployment across Europe. The initiative was adopted by the Council Recommendation of 22 April, 2013.

The package includes the so-called "Youth Guarantee". It is a tool that hopes to ensure that all youth under 25 receive a quality job, internship or education offer within four months of finishing school or becoming unemployed.

Over 5 million young people (under 25) were unemployed in the EU-28 area in the second quarter of 2014.

The EU countries with the highest rate of youth unemployment are Spain (53.8% in July 2014), Greece (53.1% in May 2014), Italy (42.9%), Croatia (41.5%), Portugal (35.5%) and Cyprus (35.1% in June 2014).

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