The group of Spanish sociologists has decided to explore the subject of posting of workers in the transport industry. As part of their research, they analysed current problems and future perspectives connected with posting of drivers. It turns out that the issue of posting of drivers in international transport was not even discussed in Brussels until Germany implemented MiLoG.
The freedom to provide services to enterprises is one of the basic pillars of the common economic space in the European Union. This is the foundation on which the ‘single market’ is built. It is linked with the free movement of workers in the EU Member States, which means posting which is regulated by the whole spectrum of the EU and domestic laws.
The Spanish sociologists underline in their analysis that the number of posted workers in Europe is constantly growing (from 858 thousand in 2005 to 1.425 million in 2014), but they still constitute only 0.4 percent of all the workers in the EU. The highest number of posted workers is reported in Germany (ca. 414 thousand in 2014), France (ca. 191 thousand) and Belgium (ca. 160 thousand). The workers are posted mainly from Poland (ca. 428 thousand), Germany (ca.256 thousand) and France (ca.125 thousand). Spain is only on the fifth place in respect of the number of workers posted by Spanish companies (ca.111.5 thousand).
Based on the detailed statistical data regarding this phenomenon and on the series of detailed interviews with domestic and international experts from the industry (e.g. with the officers of the labour inspectorate, representatives of professional organizations and experts from the EU institutions), in 2016, the Spanish scientists prepared a comprehensive document. They analysed the situation of the Spanish transport industry and its perspectives in the context of the posting of workers regulations. However, they underline the fact that many data are incomplete or not available at all. The authors of the report also claim that gathering information about posting of workers should be more effective. Referring also to other studies, they remark that a high percentage of European companies do not notify competent authorities about posting their workers although it is mandatory.
Posting of workers in Europe
The posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services is regulated by the Directive 96/71/EC of 1996. The Directive 2014/67/EU, i.e. “implementing directive” of 15 May 2014 set the time of transposition of the provisions on the posting of workers in Member States for 18 June 2016.
The companies posting their workers abroad have to comply with many obligations. They are connected with both: the administrative area and the need to ensure the conditions of employment which are not less beneficial than those present in the Member State to which the worker is posted. Unfortunately, it is quite complicated to meet these conditions because they are regulated by the Member State to which the worker is posted and they are very different in different Member States.
The Spanish sociologists underline that the Directive of 1996 was developed primarily to regulate posting of workers from the sectors where it plays a significant role (such as building sector, industry and services). The Directive does not refer to the specific nature of the road transport industry, where the workers cross borders and travel to perform their work.
Fight for the share in the market under the guise of protection of drivers
The Spanish socialists collected a lot of interesting information and expert opinions on the posting of workers and the situation in the European transport market.
Certain countries have highly benefited from the competitiveness, especially from the East, but other countries have lost their ability to compete. I mean Germany, France and England. These countries are very concerned because one of their important industries: road transport is disappearing. The statistics show (…) that the share of German, French, Italian and English carriers in the market is decreasing, while the share of the companies from Eastern Europe is growing. This forces the West to create and use certain protection measures. They include the obligation imposed on the carriers to pay their workers a minimum salary for the work performed within the territory of a given country. This requirement has been implemented by Germany, Austria and even by Norway, which is not a member of the European Union,” said the expert from the Spanish Association of International Transport ASTIC.
According to the Spanish organizations of employers, such measures (minimum wage for drivers and ban to take the weekly rest in the cabin, adopted in France), which are often presented as initiatives protecting workers’ rights, in fact are protectionist mechanisms of defence of countries’ corporate interests against the external competition from those countries with lower labour costs (e.g. the French ban aims at the protection of the French companies against the competition from Spain). However, the Spanish employers do not think that these solutions aim at excluding them from the Western markets. They also do not feel any negative effect on their financial situation which would result from the minimum wage adopted in Germany (the wages of the Spanish drivers are higher than German social minimum). However, they reject these measures due to huge administrative burdens and interventionism, which disrupts the functioning of the market and is contrary to the freedom to provide services in the EU.
“There is a block of central Members States, including France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, which suffer from the competition, mainly from the East, taking a part of their freights. The measures applied by these countries affect also us because it is impossible to adopt regulations which would only be applicable to the companies from the Eastern Europe. They apply to all the companies carrying out international transport operations,” said the rapporteur of the Spanish Confederation of Freight Transport (CETM).
The requirement to meet the obligations imposed in some EU countries with regard to international transport is a huge administrative burden. And this is in contrary to everything that the European Commission strived for, that is the elimination of the administrative burden for companies, isn’t it? Declaring or informing the given country about the observance of its regulations requires much more bureaucracy, paperwork and human resources. (…) Another employee means a higher cost of salaries. In addition, there are also serious obstacles and shortage of time. Therefore, we are absolutely against these types of actions. We think it should be done differently,” added the rapporteur of CETM.
“In fact, it will bring some benefits for the drivers compared to their salaries in their home countries, but the difference will be merely a few euros. If we consider the administrative burden entailed by such laws, the benefits are absolutely disproportional. Notifications, verification requirements, translations of documents, diversified blank forms of services, diversified reports…” said the member of the Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG Move).
The officer of the Spanish Labour Inspectorate in Girona claims that the settlements with posted drivers in international transport are impossible. It would be practicable only for cabotage.
International transport is much more complicated because the driver can be in three countries during a single day. Just imagine that you leave Lille, go through Luxembourg to the Netherlands and stay the night in Belgium. It can happen. How to calculate the driver’s salary in four countries, depending on the time when he crossed the border? Such regulations would not be feasible,” said the inspector.
It should be also underlined that only in Spain the salaries in freight transport are regulated by 52 collective agreements.
Besides, the Labour Inspectorate and Social Insurance Fund in Spain highlights the difficulties to achieve agreements between different EU Member States with regard to the movement of workers on the EU level. Like the European Commission, it sees the need to create and give access to reliable data bases both on the EU and on the domestic levels. The Inspectorate underlines that the coordination and cooperation between the institutions from the EU Member States should be a priority to ensure employment conditions which will be compliant with the legal provisions, to combat the cases of abuse and to gather information in this area.
Unionists for posting of workers in transport
The Spanish trade unions from the transport industry favour the full implementation of the Posting of Workers Directive in the transport sector. They believe that the Directive will be a basic instrument to fight “social dumping” in this sector. The unionists claim that currently the gradual reduction of workers’ rights is a real problem in transport.
Minimum period of posting?
Generally, the EU directives on the posting of workers are assessed from two different perspectives. The Spanish employers underline the structural inadequacy of the directives to international transport due to the mobile nature of such transport. On the other hand, the guidelines on posting do not specify the minimum period of time.
The East conquered the transport market
The representative of the International Road Transport Union (IRU) revealed to the Spanish sociologists how the carriers from the East have managed to conquer the European transport market. He claims that lower labour costs let them compete in the West.
If you analyse the structure of the company’s costs, everywhere, in the West or in the East, everything is the same… Tyres are the same, vehicles are the same, the price of diesel is more or less the same, similarly with insurance services. However, loans are slightly more expensive in the East, so the only cost on which you can have an influence is the cost of staff, i.e. the drivers you employ,” said the expert from IRU, underlining that the price pressure in the transport industry is rising.
The rapporteur from the trade union remarks also that the drivers from Eastern Europe perform the works that the drivers from the Old EU do not want to take.
The real international long haulage is currently carried out by the Eastern companies. These are original Eastern companies, or the subsidiaries of the Western companies. (…) The Western drivers from the Netherlands, Belgium etc. do not want to spend four weeks on the road. They do not want to sleep in the truck. They want to be with their families every Friday, so they do not drive in the International transport operations,” said the expert from IRU
It’s all because of MiLoG?
According to the rapporteur from the Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG Move) in the European Commission, the issue of the posting of workers was not discussed in Brussel until Germany adopted the act on minimum wage (MiLoG).
There were no discussions on this subject until the adoption of the German act on minimum wage. Before the issues of the posting of workers and applying domestic minimum wages or employment conditions were not in the agenda. Why? Because it is very difficult to find an authentic situation when workers are posted in international transport (…). We know that the directive does not specify the minimum period for which the worker may be posted. (…)” said the member of DG Move.
He also admits that, after the implementation of MiLoG, Brussels had two options: either to institute a legal action against Germany or to perform a targeted review of the Posting of Workers Directive to include the specific nature of international transport.
The expert from DG Move underlined that Germany wanted to fight this way with the countries with lower labour costs. However, they were not the major problem of the German transport industry. Instead of punishing the whole sector, Germany should focus on illegal cabotage, letterbox companies and employment agencies violating workers’ rights.
The report of the Spanish Sociologists states that the set of legislative proposals known as the Mobility Package was developed as a result of the pressure exerted by the countries from Northern and Central Europe to ensure that drivers get “equal pay for equal work”. The Spanish (ASTIC, CETM) and European (IRU) industry associations together with the Confederation of European Business (Business Europe) want to protect free market and free movement of workers in the EU because, in their opinion, it does not require additional regulations. The authors of the study claim that the revision of the Directive will only lead to legal uncertainty among entrepreneurs. The organizations of employers underline that companies mostly comply with the regulations on the movement of workers and that there are only single cases of bad practices. On the other hand, the Spanish trade unions gathering workers from the transport industry demand that international transport be subject to the provisions on the posting of workers because of the deteriorating working conditions in the industry.
Before the Mobility Package and the revision of the Directive took on the current shape, the Spanish and European experts, officials and representatives of the industry expressed their concerns regarding the effects of the application of provisions on the posting of workers to the transport industry. Almost all of them concluded that it will be impossible to apply these provisions to drivers and that it will create a huge bureaucratic barrier undermining the basic values of the single market: free movement of services and workers.
We may only regret that the Western politicians have not taken into account the voice of the Spanish sociologists and authors of similar studies, but instead they have chosen the populist solutions based on protectionism. These decisions will affect everybody. Transport services will be more expensive which will also increase the prices of the products in the whole EU. The transport workers, whom the Western politicians claim to protect, will not feel any improvement, but may even lose their jobs.