On February 14th 2019, Commission, EU Parliament and Council did reach provisional agreement in the trilogue negotiations on the European Labour Authority. Even if, from a worker’s point of view, it would have been welcomed if the competencies of the new authority were more far-reaching, the agreement reached nevertheless represents a significant success. Now it is important that the Authority starts its actual work as soon as possible. However, before that can happen, Council and EU Parliament have to give their blessing to the provisional agreement.
About a year ago, on March 13th 2018, the Commission submitted its proposal on establishing a European Labour Authority (ELA) within the framework of the Social Justice Package. In the end, the negotiations progressed rapidly: the General Orientation in the Council took place on December 6th 2018, the plenary decision on December 11th and now – last week the provisional trilogue agreement. In order for the Authority to be able to commence work as soon as possible, it would be more than welcome if the last still open voting steps will be positive. It is regrettable that Austria is one of the few Member States that still opposes the outcome of the negotiations at Council level. The Parliament's Committee on Employment and Social Affairs could confirm the trilogue result as early as next week (26.2.). Finally, the result has to be confirmed by the plenary and Council ministers.
The responsibilities of the ELA will be in respect of access to information in case of cross-border mobility, of support of the Member States in case of joint controls and in respect of the cooperation in fighting illegal employment. Apart from that, the Labour Authority shall assist national authorities in solving cross-border disputes.
In the negotiations, the Council had urged for more “voluntariness”, which was also to be reflected in the name “Agency” instead of “Authority”. In contrast, the Chamber of Labour has repeatedly referred to the fact that any restriction will merely result in “assisting” Member States and in a lack of self-assertion by the Labour Authority.
However, in the negotiations, Commission and EU Parliament were able to assert the name “European Labour Authority”. With regard to mediation proceedings and cross-border inspections, the liability – compared to the General Orientation of the Council – had been at least slightly increased: in case of inspections, the ELA shall have not only an assisting but also a coordinating function. A 2-stage procedure is planned for mediation, whereby in the 2nd stage Member States, which are not affected by the incident in question, will be involved in the decision. The participation in the mediation continues to be on a voluntary basis; just the submission of a written declaration will be required. It is also positive that national social partners will be granted the right to bring known cases of alleged breaches of law to the attention of the Authority.
The trilogue agreement provides for the following composition of the Labour Authority’s Management Board: one person per Member State, two Commission representatives, an expert of the EU Parliament as well as four social partners. In the Stakeholder Group, ten representatives of the social partners, who shall also cover particularly affected sectors.
Still open is the issue where the Labour Authority should be located. Apart from the Member States, the EU Parliament also wants to contribute to this question. In interinstitutional terms, one has now agreed the procedure to find the location, which will start once the legislative act has been adopted. Some countries actively promote the idea of having the seat of the ELA in their own country. The Chamber of Labour has also repeatedly suggested Austria as the location for the Labour Authority. However, also with regard to this question, the Austrian government has unfortunately not shown any socio-political commitment and has not followed the proposal of the Chamber of Labour.