New Wall Being Built in Europe, Conference Warns
December 30, 2016
Planned changes to a European Union directive on the posting of workers” would give an undue advantage to the “old” Europe over new member states, especially Poland, according to participants in a conference in the southern Polish city of Cracow.
Service companies in the “new Europe” will lose their competitiveness on the EU internal market if the Posting of Workers Directive is revised as planned, said those taking part in the 4th European Labor Mobility Congress Nov. 7-8 .
The planned revision of the directive will increase the costs incurred by Polish entrepreneurs providing services in countries such as Germany or France by up to 30 percent compared with local companies.
Conference participants said that many companies will go bankrupt and thus thousands of jobs will be lost. This will affect a range of sectors, including engineering, construction, ICT, BPO and transport services.
The final version of the new proposal on the posting of workers—affecting employees who perform work in another member state on a temporary basis—will most likely be ready in the first quarter of next year. The change concerns tens of thousands of businesses across Europe, many of them employing Poles.
The draft amendment has raised concerns from the very beginning. According to conference participants, the revision violates the Treaty on the European Union and treats employers from low-wage countries unfairly.
According to Stefan Schwarz, president and co-founder of the Labor Mobility Initiative Association, “a new wall is being built” between old and new EU member states under the guise of equalizing working conditions across Europe.
Officials in Brussels are trying to satisfy French and Belgian populists, who perceive Polish service companies as a main source of their countries’ economic problems, Schwarz says. “The European Commission’s draft amendment will exclude Polish service companies from the European internal market,” he argues.
During the conference, entrepreneurs, academics and representatives from nongovernmental organizations had a chance to present their arguments to Marianne Thyssen, EU commissioner for employment, social affairs, skills and labor mobility. Thyssen is responsible for the amendment.
“As the commission we continue to work on removing obstacles to cross-border service provision,” Thyssen said during the conference. “I believe that this conference provides us with an opportunity to build on the areas where we agree—for example, on the importance of labor mobility itself.”
The new regulations will impose a number of obligations on Polish employers concerning remuneration, bonuses and allowances such as those received by local specialists and in the case of long-term work performed abroad. This will involve additional formalities, huge administrative costs, and legal and translation charges.
Critics argue that EU officials should scrap or at least scale back their proposal.
“We strongly believe, that the door for dialogue is still open,” Marek Benio, vice-president and co-founder of the Labor Mobility Initiative Association, said.
The Labor Mobility Initiative, established in April 2013, aims to encourage “a meaningful and fact-based” debate on the posting of workers. The association brings together businesspeople, academics, policy makers and lawyers from Poland, Germany and France.