The European Parliament is updating the rules on posted workers which date back to 1996. The objective is to better protect European workers who go abroad for temporary assignments and to avoid any form of social dumping.
I'm going to Grenoble for 3 months. I'm going to Pinon, France. I'm leaving for 1 month. I'm going to a Paris neighborhood for 3 months. These three Polish workers are what we call "posted workers", who leave their home countries to work on temporary assignments abroad. Their number in the EU has increased from 600,000 in 2007 to 2.05 million in 2015. They work as bricklayers in Germany, as plumbers in France. Or, like Ilidio Ferreira from Portugal, as construction workers in Belgium. We have a house to pay, a family to feed, we had to make a living. We go to Belgium or to France. The Portuguese are everywhere. The difference is that here, with aid, and everything they pay us, we can easily earn twice as much as in Portugal. A higher salary – that's what attracts posted workers. But for the same work, they are generally paid less than local workers. We get 40 euros per hour and they get half that. Plus, there's also flexibility. We work 8 hours a day, for them it's between 10 and 12 hours per day. They work on Saturdays and public holidays. The wage difference is at the heart of the revision of the 1996 law on the posting of workers, which the European Parliament is working on. The objective is to establish the same pay for the same work in the same place. For me it’s very important that, in the future, we don’t have first and second-class workers in Europe: ending wage dumping, ending unfair competition, ending exploitation of workers. It's a difficult task because the interests of the member states differ widely. In fact, the countries that receive the highest number of posted workers are also the ones sending a lot of their own workers abroad. And some countries fear losing an important labour market. In this Polish agency for posted workers, there are hundreds of requests every day. French, German and Polish companies are looking for highly skilled workers. In my opinion, the revision of the directive is completely unnecessary and nothing changes in terms of the functioning of this market. This will not change the fact that today, millions of employees are missing in the German, French and Polish markets. We are already seeing this happen. The French Building Federation told me, “We have to bring in Hungarian tilers. We no longer have the expertise. Less than 4 months is the average length of a posting in the European Union. The European Parliament, however, has not shut the door to longer postings. The growing demand for posted workers goes along with an increase in fraud: undeclared employees, salaries that are below minimum wage, or the use of letterbox companies. Letterbox companies send workers to work in another country while the headquarters are located in a third country where they have no actual business activities, but benefit from lower social contributions. The present rules date from the past century, so they are from '96. I think that when we make the rules clearer, it’s also clear what is fair and what is fraud. Facilitating the movement of European workers while better protecting their rights is crucial to building the foundations of a social Europe. That is the objective of the revision of the directive on posted workers.