Gains for professional drivers in mobility package

Three legislative reports, known together as ‘the mobility package’ have been making painfully slow progress through the European Parliament in the later period of this legislature. The package finally and somewhat unexpectedly was approved by the Parliament meeting in Brussels on 4 April.

Opposition to the mobility package came from several different sources - those on the right who felt it imposed too many obligations on haulier businesses, those in Eastern Europe with concerns about the impact on drivers operating away from their home country and a group of people who didn’t feel the package was going far enough. Add to this mix a Rapporteur (each of the report has a different one - so that’s a lot of people involved) who proved unable or unwilling to move the negotiations on.

It’s worth a little diversion here (excuse the pun) because this is a good illustration (for those who are interested) of how things are done in the European Parliament. The Rapporteur is an MEP appointed by the responsible Committee to lead the process on a report. They draft the response of the Committee to the draft laws tabled by the European Commission (the civil service). The Rapporteur will draft amendments or develop the text of the report which will be voted upon by their Committee along with those tabled by the shadow Rapporteurs appointed by the other political groups (rapporteurships are allocated to the different political groups in the Parliament according to their size). The Rapporteur and the shadows will ususally on a significant report try to negotiate compromise positions likely to gain majority approval - though this doesn’t always happen nor succeed. One further complication is that on many reports more than on Committee has a say on a piece of legislation. For example here the Transport Committee was the lead Committee on the Mobility Package but the Employment Committee was also involved as the report came into its competence. In this case each committee has a Rapporteur - they do not always agree as they may have different politics or come at the issue from a different perspective. Where there are many different views and perspectives it can be very complicated to get a result. You might wonder why the Parliament has such a complex process - well the world is a complicated place and if you are going to get leislation that works you need a process that takes account of that.

This latest Mobility Package was seeking to address a number of problems: rest breaks, safety provisions and ‘work-life balance’ for professional drivers; competition issues within the industry; and migratory ‘undercutting’ that has produced distortions in the market. Long distance driving is one area where the requirement to do things at a European level is obvious and where the effect of drivers from the U.K., Brexit or not, is equally so. The ability to implement and police such legislation did not exist until tachographs because sufficiently smart to record geo-positioning of vehicles, thus tracking in which member states a vehicle was operating at any time is now practical.

This ability to police legislation is essential. The problem of professional drivers being ‘posted’ to other member states where they work internally for wages much lower than their local counterparts is frequently exploitative, disruptive of family life, causes distortion of local markets and resentment from the local workforce. The package seeks to limit this practice (know for some reason as cabotage) within limits that restore work-life balance and broadly require the same pay for the same work in the same place.

In the end the mobility package was approved despite a rearguard that involved the repeated tabling of many hundreds of amendments and procedural attempts to kill the legislation through repeated postponement. In the end, however, a majority was established and Socialists and Democrats found a compromise with other groups that delivered the key elements the transport unions had sought but which protected haulier businesses and therefore jobs. It may be difficult, it is necessarily complex but it is undeniably important that if the EU is to mean anything to working people then it must be able to address issues like those in the mobility package.