Fact-checking: Annulling the Posting of Workers Directive, an impossible proposition

The construction sector employs the highest number of posted workers. [JJ/Flickr]

The annulment of the Posting of Workers Directive is one of the seminal proposals of Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, candidate for the European elections. Problem: such a proposal is impossible without a withdrawal from the EU. EURACTIV France reports.

The re-establishment of the national borders, the suspension of the single market in case of disloyal competition, the saving of 9 billion euros on the contribution to the European Union budget…. The candidate Dupont-Aignan does not fail to have shocking ideas for his campaign. He is also proposing to annul the Posting of Workers Directive.

“What differentiates me from the National Rally is that I say that we should not abandon a European ambition because we cannot do everything on our own,” he explained during a meeting with the General Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises (GCPME) in Paris on 20 March.

Is the “Polish plumber” making a comeback?

The candidate is relying on xenophobic rhetoric. Fear of the infamous “Polish plumber” already influenced France’s rejection of the European Constitution during the 2005 referendum.

“The Posting of Workers Directive needs to be annulled because the principle of paying social security charges in the country of origin does not work. Social security charges need to be paid in France. This system needs to be annulled. We need to stop subsidising our Polish competition” assured the politician.

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan’s proposal refers to the European directive that frames the posting of workers within the single market. The text allows a national of a member state to work temporarily in another European country depending on the social system of his origin country.

Adopted in 2006 to facilitate the work of Europeans in other member states, the Directive has been accused of putting French workers in competition with less costly workers such as the Poles. Following long negotiations, the new revised Directive of 2018 is set to come into force in 2020.

This facilitation has enabled several drifts and led to disloyal competition between workers from Eastern Europe – where social charges are less – and from Western Europe.

Could the proposal to leave the “Posting of Workers” Directive be a solution to social dumping?

A system that benefits France

Alongside Belgium and Germany, France is part of the main destinations for posted workers. But according to data published by the European Parliament, French workers are also greatly benefiting from this regime to work in another member state.

Therefore, for 203,000 detached workers welcomed on its territory, France has sent 136,000 workers to other member states.

In addition to the fact that France equally benefits from the facilitation of the single market with regard to its own nationals, the idea of “leaving” the regime of detached workers could not be carried out without… exiting the EU.

Refusing to apply EU law, notably in relation to the freedom of movement of services on which the Posting of Workers Directive relies, would put Paris in a situation of illegality. And the subject would, in any case, be litigated by the European Commission before the European Court of Justice.

The problem relates to fraud, not the directive

Another problem with Nicolas Dupont-Aignan’s argument is that annulling the Directive would not put an end to disloyal competition as the text precisely obliges employers of foreign workers to apply the same rules to both foreign and local workers in terms of working hours and remuneration.

As a result, as remarked by a representative of the Fédération Française du Bâtiment (French Federation of Builders): “The real problem is the absence of control and illegal detached employment”.

By deducting accommodation or transport from the salary of detached workers, real remuneration decreases. A fraud system linked to the Posting of Workers Directive that has been negotiated at length for over two years is attempting to respond to this issue.

The proposals from the sovereigntist candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan for the European elections could succeed before a nationalist electorate that does not wish for a Frexit.

As a believer in a Europe of nations, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan is presenting himself for the European elections with a programme that contradicts the functioning of today’s European Union.

Despite losing momentum in the polls since the announcement of Francois-Xavier Bellamy for Les Républicains (LR), Debout La France could gather between 5% and 6% of the votes during the elections on 26 May.

The party would therefore obtain seats in the European Parliament for the first time and is set to join the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR).

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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