The social legislation for HGV and bus drivers is one of the most controversial EU Dossiers of recent years. The Transport Committee of the EU Parliament confirmed the compromises so far at the votes on 19 and 24 September. The trilogue negotiations between European Parliament, Commission and Council and shall start in October – it should be the last stage within the framework of the EU legislative process.
For more than two years, the institutions of the EU have been negotiating the application of the Directive on the posting of workers in road transport (lex specialis), the driving times and rest periods for HGV and bus drivers as well as the cabotage provisions (national carriage of goods by foreign hauliers). These directives and regulations are crucial for the working conditions of drivers and the fight against wage on social dumping on Europe’s roads. However, in particular representatives from the new Member States regard this as a restriction on the market, thereby negating the catastrophic working conditions of the workers in this sector, even though many of the drivers affected come from these countries.
From the point of the Chamber of Labour and the European trade unions, there is no reason not to apply the Posting of Workers Directive from day one, when drivers are working abroad. The principle of “equal pay for equal work at the same place” must also apply to them. Driving is an occupation, which must not be treated any less favourably than others. However, numerous representatives from Eastern Member States do not agree: there were even demands for exemptions when applying the Posting of Workers Directive of far more than ten days within one month. Hence, the negotiations both in Council and Parliament were accordingly controversial.
In the end, the Council under the Austrian Presidency agreed on a compromise to the effect that cross-border journeys including two intermediate stops for loading and unloading have to be taken out of the Posting of Workers Directive, regardless of how the long the journeys are. The AK is critical of this because it is difficult for drivers to benefit from the protection of Posting of Workers Directive under real conditions. The regulation that drivers will have to return to the premises of their company or to their home address only after four weeks will not put a stop to the nomadism on Europe’s roads.
To find a majority in Parliament was even more difficult: there were no fewer than five votes prior to the EU elections to agree a similarly ambivalent compromise in respect of the dossiers. However, the group of the European Conservatives and Reformists around the Polish governing party PiS initiated a special meeting of the new Transport Committee with the motion to restart the negotiations on the Package. With 30 votes against this motion and 19 votes in favour, the motion was rejected on 19 September 2019. During the final votes on the reports submitted by the Commettee on these three dossiers on 24 September 2019, the mandataries confirmed the compromise already found by the previous Parliament.
This has paved the way for starting the trilogue negotiations, which will be held by Commission, Council and Parliament in order to find - on the basis of their respective positions - the final version of directives and regulations. In case the negotiations are not speedily completed under the Finnish Presidency, another facet will be added to the negotiations: on 1 November, there is a high possibility that a Rumanian commissioner shall take over the position of Transport Commission from Violeta Bulc. The fact, that in particular Rumanian representatives are among the greatest critics of the current compromises, might make it even more difficult to find an agreement.