Commission sticks to reform of rules on cross-border workers
The European Commission said Wednesday it will keep pushing proposed new EU rules on employees posted abroad by their employers, brushing aside concerns from several countries who said the revisions would hit their workers unfairly.
In March, the Commission presented a proposed revision of existing rules on so-called “posted workers,” aiming to smooth wage differences among member countries. But the move prompted a counteroffensive in May by a group of countries, most of them in Central and Eastern Europe, which argued the changes went against the principles of free movement and competition in the bloc.
The Commission’s 28 members decided Wednesday to stick to the proposal, saying it is needed to update the current rules, which allow people to be employed in one country while being covered by social security rules in their home country, even if costs are lower. Critics say the system is unfair because it gives foreign workers an unfair advantage over locals.
“I firmly believe this is a balanced proposal which in essence proposes to apply the same rules on remuneration for the same work in the same location. No more, no less,” said Marianne Thyssen, the European commissioner for employment, social affairs, skills and labor mobility.
The new proposal, which is not “rocket science” according to a Commission source, attempts to clarify employment conditions for posted workers and their job contracts, for example by providing details on the social benefits and minimum wage of their countries of origin.
“We must ensure that rules are fair,” said Thyssen.
Negotiations on the proposal were frozen in May after 11 national parliaments, including Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, flashed a “yellow card,” a procedure that forces the Commission to review the measures before going forward.
They argued the revision was a breach of the free movement of persons and that it was not up to Brussels to deal with such issues.
“If the Commission cannot understand the dissent expressed by 11 EU countries in the case of posted workers, that means they haven’t learned anything from Brexit,” said Konrad Szymański, the Polish EU affairs minister.
But other countries were demanding the reforms. In early July, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said France would ditch the old EU rules on cross-border workers if the Commission backed away from the reforms.
Asked about a divide between eastern and western member countries on the proposal, Thyssen said, “We do not divide, we try to bridge. The problem was already there before we came up with this proposal.”
It is now up to EU member countries and the European Parliament to amend the Commission’s revisions.
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