Labour mobility is a key pillar of the EU's single market, contributing to both the better functioning and inclusiveness of labour markets and generating a level playing field that help's increase Europe’s competitiveness while driving economic growth and job creation.
Both European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Marianne Thyssen have identified work mobility and the posting of workers as core priorities.
These two issues are in the interest of both companies and workers, allowing companies to better match skills and demand for labour while responding to economic needs; and enabling workers to explore new opportunities and develop their skills based on working across the EU28.
As the Commission puts the finishing touches to its forthcoming Labour Mobility Package, due before the end of the year, we can look back over ten years of EU instruments designed to ensure fair mobility for agency workers and the provision of agency work services: from the 1996 Posting of Workers Directive, to the Temporary Agency Work Directive of 2008 and the 2014 Enforcement the Directive on Posting of Workers.
Agency workers comprise a small but well organised proportion of posted workers. In 2014 there were 212,000 posted workers in France, 19 per cent of which were working through agency work. While in Poland, in the same year, over 26,000 agency workers were posted to more than 4500 companies in other member states.
The current legislation does three key things: It sets basic working and employment conditions including minimum rates, minimum paid holidays and minimum work periods; it ensures equal pay, equal rights, flexibility and derogation through collective labour agreements; and focusses on better application, administration and transposition of ongoing legislation.
So what more needs to be done to ensure fair mobility of workers in Europe? In my opinion there is no need to revise the Posting of Workers Directive. What is needed is better enforcement using existing provisions and better access to information and cooperation between member states.
A number of issues need to be addressed based on appropriate EU and national policy implementation measures. Firstly, we need to improve access to information on the conditions for providing cross-border agency work services and the employment conditions of agency workers. There is also a need for proportionate, effective, non-discriminatory and sometimes, greater controls on ensuring regulatory compliance. Administrative cooperation between sending and receiving countries should also be strengthened and action should be taken to avoid the abusive practices of so-called letterbox companies.
At Eurociett we are calling for a legal analysis of the interrelation between the Agency Work Directive and the Posting of Workers Directive. We support the principle of equal pay for equal work for posted agency workers as implemented at national level via the Agency Work Directive. This illustrates once again how agency work is one of the fairest and best organised forms of work, providing both flexibility and security to workers and companies. Indeed, our sector can already go beyond the minimum requirements of the Posting of Workers Directive when it comes to posted agency workers’ working conditions.
Around 15 EU member states (mostly receiving countries) have used the possibility provided by the Posting of Workers Directive to apply the equal pay - equal work principle to posted agency workers. Agency work is the only sector for which improved working conditions apply to posted workers.
The fact is that work mobility and the posting of workers affects member states in different ways. Commission data reveals Austria Belgium, France and Germany are mainly receiving countries while Estonia, Hungary, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Slovakia are the most important sending countries.
Back in 2008, working with our EU sectoral social partners UNI-Europa, we established an observatory on cross border activities. Collecting data on the posting of workers and work mobility and providing information on current legislation and rules, the Eurociett/Uni-Europa Observatory covers nine EU markets – Austria, Belgium, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Netherlands, Poland and UK. As well as analysis we have created a website full of practical information to support both workers and companies, including fact sheets covering working conditions and conditions for companies to post agency workers.
I have been very encouraged by the approach taken in the Netherlands to ensure fair labour mobility of posted agency workers. Basic working conditions are ensured by the social partners who clarify the core working conditions in a Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) which is universally binding and policed. The same provisions are applicable to posted agency workers and non-posted agency workers, including principle of equal pay.
Most of the challenges with the Dutch approach are usually linked to enforcement capacity and the Netherlands ensures the enforcement of existing rules through its 10-strong CLA police. They have seen significant improvements in compliance and prevention of fraud and undeclared work in recent years and offer an excellent example of best practice to other markets to follow the same approach.