A European Commission proposal to enforce the social rights of workers in the construction sector when they are temporarily posted abroad is creating jitters in the business community. France, for its part, said it would veto a related proposal on trade union's right to strike if the text was not strengthened further.
The Commission proposal, unveiled yesterday (21 March), puts forward new rules to increase the protection of workers when they are temporarily posted abroad.
The directive's revision comes alongside related proposals to strengthen EU rules governing the right to strike, the so-called 'Monti II Regulation'.
"Minimum employment and working conditions are often not respected for the one million or so posted workers in the EU," the EU executive said in a statement, saying the directive will increase monitoring and compliance with existing rules on posted workers.
José Manuel Barroso, Commission president, said the proposed revision of the posted workers directive, initially adopted in 1996, is aimed at rebalancing economic freedoms in the 27-country bloc with basic social rights.
"The free provision of services within the internal market represents a major growth opportunity. But the rules need to apply equally to all. This is not always the case for workers posted in another member state," Barroso said.
“Temporarily posting workers … cannot be used as a way to sidestep minimum social standards," added László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.
'New obligations' for companies
BusinessEurope, the EU employers' organisation, said it supported the directive in principle but warned about the costs of compliance, saying it imposed "an EU system of joint and several liability" that will hurt business.
The proposed system, it said, creates new obligations for companies in the construction sector in 19 countries and shifts the responsibility to enforce social rules to companies, creating new administrative burdens for them.
"Companies’ role is not to monitor the wages and payslips of their suppliers’ workers in a different language," said Philippe de Buck, BusinessEurope's director general.
The Commission accepted that the new system of joint and several liability "may restrict the freedom to provide services" in the single market. But it said it was "justified by the protection of workers rights."
The business lobby had similar complaints about the proposed update of the Monti II Regulation, which addresses concerns that, in the single market, economic freedoms would prevail over the right to strike.
In its proposed update, the Commission stresses that "there is no primacy between the right to take collective action and the freedom to provide services," giving a boost to trade unions which had complained about European Court of Justice rulings that restricted the right to collective action (see background).
But BusinessEurope said such provisions "disrespects the exclusion of the right to strike from EU competences in the Treaty," and "could alter tried and tested industrial relations systems at national level."