The GMB Trade Union, representing over 620,000 members including its Brussels Branch, has called upon its allies in the European Parliament to campaign for stricter enforcement of the law on ‘posted workers,’ which include many GMB Brussels Branch members.
A motion proposed by members of the GMB Brussels Branch on the posted workers legislation was formally adopted by the GMB at its Congress in Brighton. This followed approval at Regional level earlier this year.
Moving the motion at Congress, Branch Secretary Kieron Merrett said that branch members had been “let down by the law.” He said, “Far too many employers are unscrupulous and don’t follow the law. Our members have found at the worst possible time that they aren’t properly covered for healthcare, for example, or wrongly told that they weren’t entitled to benefits that they were entitled to under the law.”
The European Commission has recently proposed legislation to tighten up the enforcement of the posted workers rules. However, Trade Union groups have criticised the legislation, deploring the “minimalistic approach” taken by the Commission. GMB Brussels Branch Secretary Kieron Merrett told GMB Congress the proposal was “nowhere near enough” to protect GMB Brussels Branch members and that the Commission had “prioritised the freedoms of international companies over the rights of vulnerable workers.”
Although GMB is a UK-based Trade Union, the membership of GMB Brussels Branch includes many workers who are from the UK or working for UK employers in the Brussels area. A significant number of these are ‘posted workers,’ or workers who have been sent from the UK to work temporarily in Belgium. They are directly affected by posted workers legislation, which (if properly enforced) ensures that any posted worker in Belgium is entitled to the same legal minimum conditions as a normal Belgian worker on pay, holiday, working time, health and safety, and other conditions.
Many UK employers who have employees in Belgium – in both the public and private sectors – wrongly believe they are not covered by Belgian employment law and fail to uphold their workers’ basic employment rights. In fact, any worker in Belgium, ‘posted’ or not, is subject to Belgian employment rules, regardless of the place of origin of their employer.
However, GMB Brussels Branch has also found that many workers in Brussels believe they are ‘posted workers,’ but in fact the law has not properly been followed by their employers. This can result in a dangerous situation in which workers are not properly covered for healthcare or other benefits or have not paid taxes to the correct authorities.
The GMB’s resolution in full:
172. POSTED WORKERS DIRECTIVE AND GMB MEMBERS
- believes that the Single Market and freedom of movement in the European Union are not ends in themselves, but means to improving the lives of people;
- is concerned that the current EU Posted Workers Directive fails to adequately guarantee equal treatment in working conditions for posted workers coming to the UK from other EU countries, without which local workers are subject to unfair wage competition which undermines established conditions and collective agreements;
- believes that, too often, posted workers across Europe suffer under existing employment legislation, as they are left vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers who fail to fulfil their obligations;
- notes that many GMB members in Brussels are posted workers from the UK, and that in many cases they can lack even the most basic protections, such as healthcare cover, due to the failure of their employers to recognise their obligations under the law; and
- therefore calls upon the GMB’s allies in the European Parliament to take into account the situation of GMB members, both in the UK and in Brussels, who are let down by the current Directive, and to campaign for stricter enforcement of equal treatment in working conditions for all cross-border workers in the European Union, when the legislation on Posted Workers is revised this year.
B59 BRUSSELS BRANCH