Transport legislation must be harmonised across EU, argues Christine Revault d’Allonnes Bonnefoy.
Europe is based, among other things, on freedom of movement. Movements of people and the movements of goods are both allowed by our transport systems.
The transport sector, by its very nature, is particularly vulnerable to unfair competition; social conditions can often be used as an adjustment variable, often at the workers’ expense. Tackling social dumping is a major challenge for the next year, in order to maintain European sustainable standards.
The first measure in stopping this social dumping would be to start tackling illegal work. This could be achieved by strengthening the ability of member states to enforce existing laws and by implementing new legislation at a European level.
Controls are key to ensuring fair working conditions, and decent social protection to all transport workers in Europe. These should not only focus on safety aspects but also on non-compliance with European law. Road transport is one of the best examples.Lorry drivers’ working conditions and compliance of employers with EU law (posted workers directive, regulation to avoid letterbox companies, etc.) are not always considered nor are they included in national and European road transport registers.
Including such information would allow authorities to prevent illegal and unfair practices. To address this, the EU should establish a European agency for road transport to ensure EU legal requirements on social issues.
The posted workers directive could also be a useful tool, were the European Commission to grant the national authorities sufficient means to check its application, and clarify the possibilities of derogation. The more complicated a rule, the more likely it is to be ignored. As long as it is possible to break the law without fear of prosecution, employers are more likely to continue acting illegally.
The European Union should also try and identify new trends in social dumping. These include flags of convenience, operating bases, abuse of independent worker status and the « uberisation » of professional services. To address these issues, the EU should try to harmonise legislation across the 28 member states.
The transport sector is in its very essence transnational. This is something policymakers must take into account. Only European institutions can provide a legislative base wide and flexible enough to respect subsidiarity. Our long term perspective remains an upward harmonisation of all social and environmental standards.
To do so, the European Commission must involve social partners as much as possible and develop a broad social agenda. To address these challenges, both the future road package and the mobility package will be top priorities for Socialist and Democrats asking for ambitious legislative initiatives.
Everyone in Europe must gain from fair competition: consumers, travellers, workers, employers. It’s a matter of common interest.