The creation of a European Labour Authority (ELA), which shall help to intensify the fight against cross-border wage and social dumping, had been a major concern for the Chamber of Labour. On 16th October the authority took up its work with an opening ceremony attended by Commission President Juncker and a first public meeting of its Management Board. However, the authority must first pass its field test.
17.5 million Europeans live or work in another member state and millions of companies operate on a cross-border basis. The Chamber of Labour has time and again pointed out the problems associated with this and also the shortcomings regarding cross-border law enforcement. In future, the responsibilities of ELA shall include better access to information as well as improved cooperation between member states. Particular measures shall include joint cross-border inspections within the scope of ELA. Its work shall also focus on fighting illegal employment as well as mediation in case of cross-border disputes.
Management Board takes up work
The new Members of the Management Board, who gave themselves an initial working programme during a first meeting, can also significantly contribute to ELA’s success. The post of Executive Director in ELA is still vacant. The Stakeholder Group, in which the social partners are represented, shall be set up in the coming weeks. With 140 employees and an annual budget of 50 million Euro, ELA, which for the time being works from Brussels and which will have its future seat in Bratislava, will achieve its full capacity in 2024.
Negotiators of the Institutions in have positive expectations
During the first meeting of the Management Board on 16th October 2019, the representatives of the EU Institutions once again praised the speedy and successful negotiation process on ELA and the great engagement of all Institutions. The outgoing Social Commissioner Marianne Thyssen emphasised that ELA might make it possible to close the law enforcement gap at last. In her opinion, a key role would be played by ELA’s national liaison officers. In practice, ELA had to become an authority, where colleagues from different Member States are jointly solving problems. According to Thyssen this would be easier if people would work in the same building.
Jeroen Lenaers (EPP), EP Rapporteur for the legislative act was also happy with the speedy negotiation process and the high level of approval for the new Authority. From his point of view, it had also been important not to create new rifts between Member States as it had been the case concerning previous legislative acts. One had succeeded to reach a broad consent between Left and Right, North and South as well as East and West. However, he voiced his regret that not all Member States had agreed to ELA. (Reminder: Austria did not approve of ELA in the Council).
Will ELA pass the field test?
In time with ELA taking up its work, during a working visit in Brussels last week, a high-ranking delegation of the Union of Construction and Timber Workers also pointed out those problems, which occur in practice in Austria in respect of the posting of workers. At the centre of the discussion was the complaint made by the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) against Slovenia regarding the “posting bonus” paid to Slovenian companies that send their workers to Austria. The Chamber of Labour too has lodged a complaint in this matter with the Commission. The European Trade Union Confederation also forwarded a first catalogue of cases to ELA. The success of ELA will be judged on the basis of its success in reducing wage and social dumping in the cross-border internal market and whether it can provide real assistance with regard to law enforcement.