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Europe – Better protection demanded for posted workers

24 January 2013

The European Commission has again urged countries to support legislation in order to protect workers who find themselves more vulnerable in temporary labour relationships abroad. These workers are posted to foreign countries by their employers, often to tackle skills shortages.

Most of these posted workers can be found in jobs within construction, agriculture, transport and information technology. Each year, around 1.2 million workers are affected by this, 0.4% of the EU workforce.

The problem is that this type of work can go undeclared, leading to cases of abuse and social dumping. This has also tainted the image of the staffing industry, especially in countries which rely on seasonal workers.

Speaking in Brussels on Wednesday, László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, said: “There is an urgent need to tackle undeclared work and abuse of posted workers by unscrupulous employers that take advantage of weak national controls or lack of cooperation between national authorities.”

The Commissioner urged the EU's Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to adopt a proposal to boost enforcement of the 1996 posted workers Directive which protects the rights and working conditions of workers. This includes minimum pay rates, minimum paid annual holidays, maximum working hours and minimum rest periods, on top of health and safety rules.

But employers do not always stick to these rules. The Commission said that workers are often underpaid and do not have proper holiday entitlements. It has therefore proposed a new directive to improve working conditions, which could increase cooperation between countries.

“The importance of labour law is not limited to the area of posting of workers. For instance applying the principle of equal treatment with respect to basic working conditions has helped increase the level of protection of temporary agency workers,” the Commission said.

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