French president Emmanuel Macron has pushed for the change
EU officials today announced they will seek stringent new limits on undercutting of wages which has fuelled eurosceptic sentiment in countries including France, Austria and the Netherlands.
Under the proposals the number of days that Eastern European truck drivers can spend working in other EU states on rock bottom pay will be severely clamped down on.
The plans will be welcomed by European powerhouses like France and Germany, whose minimum wages are being unfairly undercut, but are likely to provoke consternation in Eastern capitals.
Currently workers for firms based in countries like Poland and Hungary have carte blanche to carry out jobs in Western Europe, all whilst being paid the going rate in their homelands.
But it is set to be opposed by Eastern European leaders
This has led to the emergence of “letterbox” haulage companies, which are registered in Eastern European states but carry out almost all of their business in the wealthier West.
Truckers in countries like France and Germany have complained that this allows those companies to carry out jobs for far less because they do not have to pay their staff the minimum wage.
Now the EU Commission is looking to close the loophole by restricting the number of days drivers can work in another member state on their home pay to just two a month.
Under the plans any trucker spending three or more days outside the country where their employer is based would be considered a “posted worker”, meaning they have to be paid the minimum wage for the state they are working in.
Right now it's a mess
EU transport chief Violeta Bulc
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The proposals will delight new French president Emmanuel Macron, who last week demanded that eurocrats take action to end the unfair practice which is putting hauliers in his country out of business.
But leaders in Eastern Europe will be left fuming and have previously said that any moves to place restrictions on their workers would be “protectionist” and go against the principles of the single market.
Transport commissioner Violeta Bulc, who is from Slovenia, laid out the proposals saying: “Right now it's a mess.
“We are more and more connected and dependent on each other. Hauliers are a very important part of logistics and need to have clear rules."
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The plans will now have to be agreed by the EU Parliament, which should be plain sailing, and the 28 members of the EU Council where they are likely to face stiffer opposition.
And they could spark another significant flashpoint between Eastern and Western Europe, which are already involved in a series of bruising battles over migration, rule of law and funding.
Many Western states, including France and Austria, have suggested that structural funds to the East should be cut off because countries there are failing to show “solidarity” on key issues like refugees.
But those proposals have met with cries of bullying and blackmail in Warsaw and Budapest, where eurosceptic politicians feel Brussels is increasingly encroaching on sovereignty to an unacceptable degree.