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Europe – Horse meat and social dumping in the Labour market

15 February 2013

Stefan Sauer writing in the Berliner Zeitung has drawn an interesting parallel between the current horse meat scandal and what he describes as the legal grey area created by the EU Posting of Workers directive (PWD).

To paraphrase him, anyone looking at why Romanian horse meat was devoured in Europe should also look at how a French construction company can hire an Irish bricklayer to work in France from a Polish staffing company, by means of a shell company in Cyprus, and with the worker operating under Cypriot labour law. 

According to Sauer, the aim of the 1996 Directive was to encourage free enterprise and fair competition through the posting of workers to other EU countries, while respecting the workers fundamental rights. What we have got according to Jutta Steinruck, SPD deputy in the European parliament is an instrument for “social dumping in Europe”.

The Social Democrat is not alone in this assessment. Sauer states that green and other left-wing parties in parliament in Strasbourg and the European Trade Union Confederation have pleading for years for a reform of the PWD. Their core demands include that posted workers should receive the same pay as the workers of the host country, that information points should be set up, that unclear wording of the Directive should be clarified and made watertight against abuse, and that posted workers should have a clear right to strike.

The EU Commission has recognized the need for reform, and in March 2012 submitted proposals for mutual assistance, more transparency, better information, more intensive controls and more effective sanctions. On closer inspection, however, it seems that the Commission is only proposing a compromise between strict regulations of member states such as Germany and more lax regulations of other countries.

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