In a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday EU Social Affairs minister have reached an agreement on EU “posted workers.”
The agreement is a triumph for a number of governments that wanted to maintain the status quo, including Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, and the Czech Republic. One in four posted workers in the EU is Polish.
The social dumping practice of sending foreign workers in higher income countries (posted) to work with a regime of social security contributions defined by their country of origin has triggered anger and resentment against freedom of movement in many EU member states.
That was a prominent theme of the Leave campaign in the UK and one that resonates with working-class Eurosceptic voters in Germany, France, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, and the Netherlands.
Social Affairs Commissioner Marianne Thyssen said on Monday that President Emmanuel Macron managed to broker a consensus among ministers, hailing the EU’s shift towards an “equal pay for equal work” regime. That statement is important for President Macron, who is pushing bold labour market reforms in France, but it is unclear how politically significant the deal really is.
In reality, the agreement appears to be a negotiating triumph for governments that for 18-months have resisted the notion of ending the practice altogether.
First of all, the deal exempts track drivers, that is, a sector in which the practice is dominant, DW reports. According to France 24 Spain, Portugal, and Ireland were instrumental in securing that exemption.
Secondly, the agreement cuts in half – from one to two years – the practice of allowing the employment of workers under a social insurance regime defined by their country of origin. That means that a Polish worker can work in Germany paying Polish while his or her employer pays for Polish social contributions. In fact, the compromise will enable companies to renew posted workers license for six months.
Moreover, according to Radio Poland, there will be a three-year “transition period.”
It is unclear how or when the agreement will affect the working conditions of an estimated two million posted workers across the EU. The European Parliament must still confirm the agreement and there is still no deal on the remuneration of posted workers.
After the meeting, the Polish and Hungarian ministers of labour talked about a regretful compromise, Radio Poland reports.