European Parliament refuses to address exploitation and displacement of workers

16 April 2014

European Parliament refuses to address exploitation and displacement of workers

The European Parliament today ratified the agreement with the Council of Ministers on a new law designed to counter the abuse of the posting of workers within the EU. ‘The existing European rules governing posting of workers leave a great deal of scope for exploitation and displacement on the labour market,’ SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong explains. ‘This is about illegal practices, but also about adept use of existing legal loopholes. I voted against the proposal, however, because it offers no guarantee of equal pay for equal work. Moreover, it’s more of a restriction than a reinforcement of checks on illegal practices. Market fundamentalism has won out here over protection for workers. It’s disappointing to see that the Greens and some of the social democrats voted in favour.’

Dennis de JongThe Posted Workers Directive sets out the legal position of workers posted or assigned to a member state other than their usual country of residence. In general the rules insist upon equal pay for equal work, but this does not cover pensions or social insurance. This means that a Dutch building firm can open a subsidiary in Romania then post Romanian workers to the Netherlands. These workers will then be by definition cheaper because of lower pensions and social insurance payments in Romania. ‘The European Parliament has allowed this loophole in the law to remain in place,’ says De Jong. ‘So the SP wants to see a debate as soon as possible after the European elections on the basic rules regarding posting of workers and not only, as now, on their enforcement.’

As a member of the Internal Market Committee, De Jong was closely involved in the proposal. Initially, he was successful in attempts to step up checks so that workers and small firms unwilling to cooperate in shady practices could enjoy better protection. He received support for his proposal to ban strikebreaking via the deployment of detached workers. But, as he explains, ‘in negotiations with the Council of Ministers proposals of this sort were completely killed off. There’s even a danger now that a country which does have intensive controls will be accused of “disproportionate” measures which are an obstacle to free movement of services. I cannot understand therefore why our Social Affairs Minister, Lodewijk Asscher, was so happy with this compromise. A salient fact is that many of his social democratic party colleagues voted with me, against the agreement. This is a dark day for workers and an excellent day for international corporations which can carry on with their exploitation and displacement.’

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