For over a year, the European Parliament has been debating the Commission proposal on applying the special regulations in road transport on the Posting of Workers Directive (‘Lex specialis’), the Regulation on driving times and rest periods for professional drivers as well as cabotage. However, after the vote in plenary on 4th July it is back to square one as all three reports were rejected by the majority in parliament!
This is the temporary high point of a roller coaster, which dominated the debate on the social provisions for professional drivers in the European Parliament over the last weeks and months.
To recap: in May 2017, the Commission presented the 'First Mobility Package', which was to amend three key dossiers on the social standards of HGV and bus drivers. According to these amendments, the Posting of Workers Directive would only have to apply to drivers after three days if these worked in international transport. More flexible driving times and rest periods should make it possible among other to reduce two successive rest periods. Apart from that, a redefinition of cabotage shall significantly facilitate domestic transport by foreign companies. Correspondingly, the position of the Chamber of Labour regarding the proposals ranges from critical to negative.
In April 2018, the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment (EMPL) adopted the reports on these dossiers, which sent a clear sign against social dumping on Europe’s roads: for example, according the majority of this Committee, the Posting of Workers Directive should have to be applied from the first day also in international transport. The Committee also regarded the option of two reduced successive rest periods as going too far.
However, the Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN), which is in charge of these two dossiers, took a different view. The final report, which was adopted on 4th June 2018, provides for nothing less than the complete exemption of international transport from the Posting of Workers Directive. Two consecutive reduced rest periods and the possibility to spend all weekly rest periods in the driver cabin on secure parkings would have additionally exacerbated the conditions of drivers.
As the plenary did not confirm the trilogue mandate for the TRAN reports on 14th June 2018, the vote in plenary on 4th July followed with a large number of amendments. Whilst the majority of MEPs voted first and foremost in favour of amendments, which would not only have further exacerbated drivers’ working conditions, but would also have promoted unfair competition, in the end everyone was taken by surprise: none of the three reports was able to get the majority in the final vote in plenary!
The referral in the Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN) means that the work on the Parliament report has to begin anew. However, as positive as it is that Parliament did not support the TRAN report, the question more than ever arises how, after so many months of unsuccessful negotiations, a broad consensus on these dossiers may be possible. As the European Council finds it equally difficult to find a common position, an early conclusion of these three dossiers appears to be further away than ever. Nevertheless: there will be no let-up from AK Europa - more than ever, wage and social dumping have to be fought against!