The first Employment Committee after the summer break (29.8.2018) had two - from an employee point of view extremely important - dossiers on its agenda: the proposal on setting up a European Labour Authority as well as the Directive proposal on transparent and fair working conditions. An exchange with both EP rapporteurs on both dossiers took place against the background of the now available draft reports and amendments.
EU Labour Authority – Almost 1,000 amendments in the Employment Committee
The number of tabled amendments shows the great interest in the subject 'EU Labour Authority'. The focus of the debate was the issue as to how far-reaching the responsibilities of the Labour Authority should be. This was also reflected in the discussion on possible names for the Labour Authority. As regards to both issues, the opinions of MEPs still differ widely. Rapporteur Jeroen Lenaers (PPE) commented that that according to his Draft report the Labour Authority must not be allowed to become a “paper tiger”; he supported a clear definition of the responsibilities. From his point of view, a key responsibility of the Labour Authority would be carrying out joint cross-border inspections.
Referring to a possible reduction of the Labour Authority’s responsibilities, the Commission representative pointed out that from the Commission’s point of view gathering and exchanging information would represent an important contribution to prevention. MEP Evelyn Regner (S&D), who referred to the necessary fight against letterbox companies, did not mince her words either: What was needed were clear, strict and enforceable rules. She commented: We don’t need a “petting zoo”, but a “genuine authority”, thereby referring to the functioning European Banking Authority (EBA).
From the AK’s point of view, the Labour Authority can make an important contribution in the fight against wage and social dumping. The AK therefore welcomed the proposal; however it demands that it is made more rigorous: The Labour Authority’s self-assertion shall be strengthened (dispute settlement procedure), social partners shall become more involved and the existing, well-functioning institutions of social insurance cooperation shall remain. During the debate, the greater integration of the social partners was also demanded by several MEPs of various factions.
Transparent Working conditions – dispute regarding the term of ‘employee’
Enrique Calvet Chambon (ALDE), rapporteur of the Directive on transparent and fair working conditions also referred to the large number of Amendments tabled regarding his Draft report. The crux of the discussion in the Employment Committee was once again the question to which “workers” the proposal should apply. Here the two opinions differed widely. The Commission proposal contains a wider ‘worker’ definition, which is welcomed by the AK. Even though the EP Draft report basically adheres to a wide definition of ‘worker’, it wants to allow Member States their own national implementation. Of course, this would significantly reduce uniformity and predictability and possibly also lead to the fact that fewer “workers” would be able to benefit from the rights of the Directive.
A Legal opinion by Prof. Martin Risak und Thomas Dullinger, which was carried out on behalf of AK, ÖGB, ETUC and EGI also outlines the backgrounds regarding the definition of ‘worker’ in EU law. Apart from the discussion concerning the Directive’s area of application, the AK supports the idea that with regard to minimum standards for working conditions a higher level of protection is fixed and that a stronger non-regression clause will be embedded in the legal act.
Where do we go from here?
It will be interesting to see whether it will be possible to finalise the two Directive proposals in the remaining legislative period. This would be desirable from an employee point of view, as it is not clear whether unconcluded legal acts will be further negotiated in the next legislative period. The schedules for the negotiations are ambitious: On 18th October 2018 – according to the schedule – the EP Employment Committee shall vote on both dossiers.
Concerning the Directive, the Council of Ministers for Social Affairs already at the end of June decided on a general orientation with regard to transparent and fair working conditions. In this case, after agreement in the European Parliament, trilogue negotiations could begin with the Council. This is not the case with the Labour Authority, where at Council level negotiations are not yet as far advanced and where the positions of the Member States still greatly differ.