European Labour Authority: towards more convergence in EU social legislation

According to the European Commission, the number of mobile workers in the EU has doubled over the past 10 years to reach a figure around 16 million nowadays. The majority has moved there permanently; however, some have been posted, with too often cases of wage and social dumping. To meet these challenges, the Commissioner for Social Affairs Marianne Thyssen has presented decisive proposals: a revision of the Posting of Workers Directive, the proposal to coordinate social security systems and, today in Strasbourg, the “Social Fairness package”, which includes the shapes of the future European Labour Authority (ELA).

Long-awaited, this new authority has been recurrently debated in Brussels, especially its possible responsibilities and competences. As a response, DG Employment has announced that the core purpose of ELA will be to facilitate and coordinate cooperation between Member states in the area of cross-border mobility, notably to deal with issues related to posted workers, the coordination of social security systems and rights and responsibilities of cross-border citizens and companies.

The new authority would be established as a true agency aiming at enhancing implementation of European legislation, with clearly defined tasks: the ELA will serve as an information platform for employees and employers and cross-border employment; provide support to the inspections and controls carried out by the Member states, on a voluntary basis, with the assistance of European level liaison agents; provide logistical, linguistic and interpreting support as well as help to quickly dispatch agents to accompany the national inspectors and supervisors; and act as a mediator in case of failed compulsory cooperation between Member states. However, the authority will not be in charge of the inspections itself as this is a national level competency.

The impact of the posting of workers in construction is bigger than in any other sector. 44% of the total posted workers are in construction, which means that this phenomenon represents 5% of the active workforce of the sector. In order to guarantee fair competition for construction SMEs and the respect of social rights for workers, the European Builders Confederation has successfully fought for a revision of the 1996 posting of workers directive and a better alignment of EU social security systems. In this sense, EBC welcomes the ELA agency as long as this new authority acts as the needed coordinator and implementer of EU social legislation, respecting nonetheless the principles of subsidiarity.

The European Commission would like to reach an agreement on the authority before the end of its mandate; Commissioner Thyssen has already mentioned her hopes that this will be done by January 2019, with “cruising speed” expectedly reached by 2023, although a hot topic will surely be where the authority is going to be based.