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European agreement tackles ‘social dumping’

Same terms of employment for Eastern European workers, but not for drivers

Yesterday, the European ministers of Social Affairs reached an agreement to tackle competition on the labour market for workers from low-wage countries in Eastern Europe. The agreement should end ‘social dumping.’ An exception will be made for lorry drivers.

In the agreement, terms of employment are equalised. That means an Eastern European workers would work for the same terms of employment as their colleagues in the host country. Foreign workers, for example, have to be paid wages as determined in collective labour agreements, instead of the minimum wages previously determined. Besides, they are also granted an annual bonus, and other collective labour agreements. Finally, it was decided to limit the maximum temping period to 12 months, with a possible extension of six months at the employer’s request.

The two Estonian ministers. Kaia Iva, Minister for Social Protection and Jevgeni Ossinovski, Minister for Health and Employment.

“I believe we reached a balanced agreement,” said Jevgeni Ossinovski, Minister in Estonia and current chairman of the European Council. “We have a firm basis for the agreement that was reached.” Of the 28 member countries, only Poland, Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania voted against the agreement. The UK, Ireland and Croatia abstained from voting, although these countries did show themselves to be proponents of the agreement, according to the chairman.

Exception for transport sector
The agreement makes an exception for the transport sector. Current rules will remain in effect for lorry drivers. Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Spain and Portugal were worried about the consequences for the drivers from their countries. The European ministers could not agree on the answer to the question in which country an international lorry driver works. The question about the drivers will be taken up in a different consultation around the subject of mobility.

There will be a transitional period of four years, the new regulations will be implemented from 2021, provided that the European Parliament accepts the agreement. The old regulations were first introduced in 1996. Labour costs for Eastern European workers were cheaper than for workers in Western Europe under these old rules. Countries including Germany, France and Austria called this ‘social dumping,’ causing unfair competition on the labour market.

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