Posted Workers Directive – better late than never

Back in the late May Strasbourg session, the European Parliament acted to resolve an important issue frequently cited during the EU referendum. 

‘Posted workers’ (that is people recruited and employed in one country sent (posted) to work in another country) have often worked at the rate of the country where they were recruited. Where wages in the that country are relatively low that resulted in undercutting of local employees’ wages in a range of sectors, but especially in construction, agriculture and transport logistics - over 45% of employees in construction have been posted workers. Unscrupulous employers world lawful loopholes to undercut wages for posted workers by deducting allowances from wages for travel and accommodation. According to the European Commission, a posted worker could earn up to 50% less than their local counterparts for the same work. 

Hiring posted workers proved cheaper than hiring local workers bound by the so-called ‘BlueBook’ agreement. The BlueBook agreement, otherwise known as the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry, meant that local workers would be entitled to allowances to cover costs of accommodation and/or travel. 

The current legislation, last revised in 1996, governing the treatment of posted workers was not fit for purpose. It failed to take into account the evolution of the EU's economy and labour market over the last 20 years. By approving the Posted Workers Directive MEPs have voted against the exploitation of  workers, voting for equal pay for equal work in the same place. 

So what will happen to the legislation if and when the UK leaves the EU?  As my colleague Jude Kirton-Darling MEP has said in an article she has co-written for the Independent, this law will still make a big difference to us and the UK’s workers regardless of our future relationship with the EU. Also, the directive will come into force before the UK is scheduled to leave and so should be carried over into UK law.

I’m very pleased that MEPs have at last made sure that the EU will protect the right to equal work for equal pay in the same place.