Volume XVI, 1-2017
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EESC CORNER: THE Future of Services Across Europe from the Employers’ Perspective

EESC CORNER: THE Future of Services Across Europe from the Employers’ Perspective

The adoption of the directive on the posting of workers for the provision of services in 1996 was a significant step towards delivering a single market for services. Its rules have worked well for twenty years and have ensured a balance between the right to provide services and the protection of the posted workers. The rules are clear, fixed and easy for businesses to grasp.

Prior to the EU enlargement in 2004 when there had been 15 Member States, the posting of workers had not constituted a major problem. The EU enlargement in 2004 representing the opening up of new business opportunities worked in both directions. Healthy competition was established in the services sector throughout Europe and the labour costs became a completely legitimate competitive factor when determining the price of services. The process of posting workers for the purpose of providing services ceased to be transparent within the EU 28, and Member States were slow to carry out their obligations regarding the enforceability of adopted rules, which is always a breeding ground for unfair and illegal practices, with repercussions for businesses, workers, customers and consumers. Calls to remedy this situation led to the adoption of the enforcement directive 2014/67/EU.

The aim of this directive was to strengthen enforcement, improve businesses’ access to information on national web portals and improve cooperation between the Member States. The transposition of the enforcement directive has yet to take place in all Member States. In June 2018 the European Commission will be required to produce an implementation report, evaluate the directive’s contribution and, if necessary, propose further measures. Nevertheless, the Commission presented the proposal for the revision of posting of workers directive without waiting for the results of the implementation of the enforcement directive intending to vigorously enforce the principle of equal pay for equal work in the same workplace in an economically unequal Europe.

Although the president of the Commission, Mr Juncker, declared that he would focus on big issues, effective legislation, unanimously agreed solutions and legal certainty, it was the directive on the posting of workers affecting 1.7 million out of the 500 million people that had become his biggest test. The European Economic and Social Committee was the first European institution to analyse the Commission’s proposal and adopt an opinion.

The EESC, as the representative of the whole of European civil society, unburdened by the internal interests of political parties or the protectionist endeavours of Member States, was in the best position to act as a litmus test for evaluating the real added value of the revision of the directive and its impacts. It squandered this opportunity, however, when it abandoned the principle of dynamic compromise, which had hitherto been fundamental to its role of providing expertise.

The Employers’ Group took the drafting of the opinion very seriously, aware that the proposal was highly sensitive for all of its three groups. Unity did not prevail even among the employers themselves. It was therefore necessary to adapt the methods and forms of cooperation. The two rapporteurs, nominated by employers and trade unions, agreed to assess the draft objectively together, make known their differences of opinion about individual proposals from the Commission, and reach compromises whenever realistically possible. Although the majority of employers do not support the revision of the directive, their numbers in the EESC were willing to support the balanced and objective document drafted in good faith by the two rapporteurs. This compromise text was eventually used as a counter opinion by the Employers’ group. This is because, following the substantial changes made to the original draft by the SOC section, the text put to the vote at the 521st plenary session in December 2016 was no longer acceptable to the majority of Employers’ Group members.

Vladimíra Drbalová
EESC Member, Group I – Employers

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