On 7 November 2020, Portuguese Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Sandra Pereira of The Left group in the European Parliament – GUE/NGL posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“I have learned of 81 Portuguese workers posted to the Belgian city of Aalter who are having to quarantine in very poor conditions after one of them tested positive for COVID-19.
This is not an isolated case of workers from one Member State being posted to another Member State and finding there that they are discriminated against, that only poor accommodation is available and that they face coercion and even exploitation of their dependence that touches on slavery.
These situations reflect the inconsistencies in EU legislation, in this specific case, the Posting of Workers Directive, which does not require the principle of equal pay for equal work to be applied and facilitates the movement of cheap labour, to the benefit of major economic powers. This case also reveals the extent to which the capacity of labour inspection authorities has been depleted. Particularly in the current circumstances of a pandemic, these authorities lack human and material resources.
In the light of the above:
1. Could any EU fund or instrument be used to help these workers to find better conditions or be repatriated, should they want to be?
2. Does the Commission or do the Member States have a monitoring and tracking mechanism for the posting of workers that ensures that the directive is being enforced and that seeks to detect social dumping?”
On 25 January 2021, Jobs and Social Rights Commissioner Nicolas Schmit responded on behalf of the European Commission stating:
“1. The pandemic has highlighted the vulnerable situation of mobile workers. The EU has recently adopted a number of legislative acts in the field of labour mobility and working conditions.
Directive 2018/957 amending the Posting of Workers Directive 96/71/EC strengthened the rights of posted workers, such as their right to receive the remuneration and it improves their situation when it comes to accommodation and to posting allowances.
Directive 91/533/EEC obliges employers to inform mobile workers on, where appropriate, the conditions governing the employee’s repatriation. This right is maintained in Directive 2019/1152, whereby information has to be given to a worker before his/her departure on whether repatriation is provided for, and if so, under which conditions.
There is no EU fund or instrument that could provide assistance for the repatriation of posted workers.
2. The main challenges now concern the enforcement of these rules at national level. This is why the Commission calls, in the recently adopted guidelines, on national authorities and social partners to make a renewed effort to fulfil their role to ensure the enforcement of the rules. The Commission continues dialogue with Member States in order to support them in this effort.
The Enforcement Directive places a large array of tools at Member States’ disposal in order to ensure effective monitoring of compliance with the obligations on posting. According to the Implementation Report, the introduction of administrative requirements and control measures placed Member States in a better position to monitor compliance with the rules and to ensure that the rights of posted workers are guaranteed.”
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