On 3 December 2018, a strident demonstration with the participation of AK EUROPA took place in Brussels, demanding significant improvements to the Mobility Package under the slogan “Better no deal than a bad deal”. In the end, the Council was able to find the sufficient majority for a compromise, which, according to EU Commissioner Violeta Bulc, “nobody is really happy about.”
“Better no deal than a bad deal!” was the slogan, under which the European Transport Workers Federation (ETF), with the participation of AK EUROPA, led demonstrators to Brussels’ Schuman Square in front of the European Council building. The idea was to once again draw decision makers’ attention to the conditions, under which lorry drivers have to work across Europe.
After a long night of negotiating the social legislation of the Mobility Package “Europe on the Move”, the Austrian Transport Minister Norbert Hofer, in his capacity as chair of the Council of Transport Ministers, addressed the public and announced the result. One had succeeded in ensuring that the living and social conditions of millions of drivers will be improved, said Hofer. Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc subsequently said that this was a deal that nobody would be happy about, referring to the different positions of countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The latter wished for a strong liberalisation to retain and develop their competitive advantage based on cheap labour.
In respect to cabotage (domestic goods transport by companies based abroad) the Council refrained from further liberalisation. The intention is to permit a maximum of three journeys in seven days, with a “cooling off phase” of five days between individual cabotage journeys. Driver rotas had to be organised in such a way that drivers could return home at least every four weeks. The regular weekly rest period must be spent outside the driver cabin, a decision, which the ECJ had already made in December last year. The intention is to monitor these provisions by a “digital tachograph”, a new version of which all HGVs that work in international transport have to be fitted with from 2025. The device automatically registers when and where a lorry crosses a border and it also records loading and unloading activities.
From the point of view of the Chamber of Labour (BAK) it should be noted that the compromise found entails fewer negative consequences than some of the other compromises, which were also on the table. The BAK has been demanding for a long time that the regular weekly rest period of at least 45 hours should not be spent in driver cabins. Haulage companies must organise the journeys in such a way that drivers are able to return home or they have to provide appropriate accommodation in hotels, flats or B&B.
Whilst it is good news that in case of cabotage journeys the rules of the Directive on the posting of drivers shall also be applied in future, which means equal pay for equal work in the same location from day one; in case of cross-border journeys and transit, this regulation will not be applied. Hence, it is possible that new loopholes will be created, especially as it is planned to allow the driver to load and unload twice respectively during journey to or from the destination.
Now the ball is in the corner of the European Parliament, which has to agree to the line taken by the Council. Rumania, Poland and Bulgaria fear a decline of orders after the Council Decision. Poland’s Transport Minister Andrzej Adamczyk referred to the still existing room for negotiation, which he wanted to use. In contrast, ETF President Frank Moreels declared that he would act now to achieve the result, which European HGV drivers deserved. MEPs should be aware that the expectations of the trade union are very high - irrespective of their political faction. Parliament should change the Council’s line to ensure that drivers can enjoy safe and secure working conditions as well as fair pay, said Moreels.