Following heated debate, MEPs gave the green light Wednesday (April 16) to “improved” legislation on the posting of workers. However, the compromise is still subject to harsh criticism, especially in France, where it remains a controversial topic.
“Criminal”, “hypocritical”, “terrifying cluster bomb”. Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front, fumed against the latest compromise reached with EU member states on posted workers.
The legislation was adopted on Wednesday afternoon in Strasbourg with 474 votes in favour and 158 against. The vote was hailed as a victory by both centre-right and centre-left political parties, which have fought hard to review the directive, which was blamed for inviting social dumping from European firms using low-cost workers.
It is viewed as especially significant in France, where the far-right has gained ground at the last municipal elections, and is expected to make an even stronger showing at the European elections on 25 May.
Compromise under attack
Although Le Pen rarely shows up in Parliament and almost never takes part in European negotiations, this time she was not alone in attacking the EU-level compromise. On the other side of the political spectrum – be it the far left or the trade unions – the feeling is that the revised Posted Workers Directive does not go far enough in “putting the worker before the market”.
Jean Luc Mélenchon, the co-leader of the Left Party (Parti de Gauche), said that he did not want to “restrict freedom of movement” but rather “promote social equality” and “create fraternity between the workers”, something he says this legislation “does not do” as it “creates competition between the workers” and “exploits” them “for their price”.
French member of the European Peoples’ Party (EPP), Philippe Boullland, who hailed the compromise as “excellent work”, admitted nonetheless that France had to “reform” its system of inspections, and increase the number of inspectors across the country.
Trade unions voiced their discontent as well, explaining that the directive could actually weaken national controls by giving the European Commission a right to “interfere” with certain measures.
“One example of the vote weakening enforcement is in the area of sub-contracting,” the European Trade Union Confederation said in a statement after the vote. “Eight member states have national laws making all companies in the sub-contracting chain potentially liable for breaches of contract such as non-payment of wages. The Enforcement Directive agreed by the Parliament allows such laws only as long as they are ‘proportionate’ – which gives the European Commission a green light to screen such legislation in the light of allegedly more important internal market objectives,” ETUC said, calling for an “urgent” strengthening of the directive.
‘Better control procedures’
The text does however introduce a number of improvements.
Karima Delli, a member of the French Greens, warned against “listening to the sirens of the demagogues” and called on members of the Parliament to “remember the progress the compromise represents”.
The new legislation, which will have to be translated into national law by 2016 in all member states, is an “enforcement” of the original 1996 directive, and reviews a number of shortcomings it contained.
The new text gives a clear definition of what “genuine posting” is and identifies “bogus self-employment”, a status used by some employers to avoid paying social contributions. It also allows for more control measures, and administrative requirements by the national authorities, reinforces cooperation between member states by setting deadlines for the transmission of documents. Finally, the final text makes information for the worker more transparent and more easily accessible by creating a single website, translated in various languages and easy to understand.
A compromise at the ministerial level was reached late last year, when Poland was hailed by its European partners for making big concessions on the issue, meaning little room for manoeuvre was left for the European Parliament after that.
Poland is the country which sends the most posted workers abroad.