SP and truck drivers in action against exploitation in road transport

9 October 2012

SP and truck drivers in action against exploitation in road transport

For the second time in a month European truck drivers are taking action against further liberalisation of road freight and the evasion of social rights by means of the registration of ‘box number companies’, amongst other methods. A demonstration by the drivers and their supporters began at the European Parliament before moving on to the European Commission building a short distance away. Hundreds of concerned truckers were there to demonstrate their discontent over social dumping. Addressing the crowd, SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong expressed his support for the action and told the drivers that he had, along with other MEPs, sent an urgent letter to the Commission. ‘Trade unions and Euro-MPs stand here shoulder-to-shoulder with the truck drivers to demand equal pay for equal work. In road freight transport quite scandalous things are taking place, from underpayment to unfair competition via law-dodging box number firms. The Commission must in our view immediately sit down with the truck drivers and unions and talk.’

Dennis de JongRecently the European Commission was advised to propose yet further liberalisation of road freight transport. It is imperative that this advice not be heeded, as Dennis de Jong explains: ‘It is clear that this advice was written almost exclusively by representatives of corporate business. As well as talking to the trade union movement the Commission must also have this employer-written advice amended so that it is more even-handed in its approach to the future of road freight transport. Then, in that future, drivers can once again be proud of the work to which they bring so much passion. Two weeks ago the Commission appeared deaf to the drivers, so it’s good that Commission Vice-president Siim Kallas himself is coming to see them. Further liberalisation of road transport would mean nothing less than the end of the Dutch transport sector.’

The demonstrating drivers have listed their demands for social proposals in a manifesto for ‘Respect for truck drivers’. The SP plans, together with like-minded MEPs and the trade unions, to send an urgent letter to Commissioner Kallas presenting the unions’ manifesto and requesting an immediate meeting. ‘As things stand an advice note is waiting on Kallas’s desk from a working group which advocates further liberalisation. In this working group the unions were hardly represented, so we are demanding that fresh, additional advice be prepared in which the drivers get to have their say.’

The manifesto contains the demand that the Commission do something about the evasion of responsibilities under collectively bargained national labour agreements – known in the Netherlands as CAOs – by means of shadowy and illegal constructions, and that equal wages be paid for equal work, wherever the firm in question is established and whatever the nationality of the driver. The SP also urges better cooperation between national labour inspectorates. ‘Abusive firms must be pursued and tackled throughout the EU, and data over these firms shared,’ says De Jong. ‘As well as that, fines imposed by one member state must be recognised by the others.’ The European Parliament is currently debating earlier Commission proposals on the enforcement of labour standards for detached workers – men and women from one EU member state sent to work in another by their employers.

The demonstration was organised by the European Transport Workers Federation

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