This week the Transport Committee of the European Parliament has taken a decision which clearly undermines attempts to improve working conditions, for all kinds of work, with the new directive on the posting of workers. TRAN has voted to exempt lorry drivers, who have become more of an icon of the modern slavery of flexibility rather than their former stereotype of tough men and highway heroes. We are all aware of the situation on European motorways: lorries with a western European country plate, while the driver’s cab has a plate from central and eastern Europe. We all see them during the weekend in the parking lots, spending their weekend there instead of being at home and waiting to get a new load. The so-called self-employed drivers. This “flexibility” means no time for themselves or with their families.
It is certainly not social progress when the drivers are “allowed” or forced by their contracting companies to spend more than three weeks on tour, to make shorter breaks of three times 15 minutes instead of 45 minutes. In whose interest is this watering down, just after the European institutions proudly proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights in Gothenburg in November last year? Now we see the critics were right: a pillar that is just a set of recommendations rather than a set of rights which are legally implemented is nice, but not enough.
We call on the MEPs to stop the dangerous undermining of at least one attempt to prove that Europe is progressing socially and to put an end to the practice of unfair competition on the shoulders and bodies of workers. In the case of lorry drivers, it is also at the expense of road safety across Europe, something that concerns us all. We call on MEPs not to support the TRAN vote. Please bear in mind that it will be difficult to campaign for European elections knowing that not even the minimum standards are meaningful because of the unreasonable exemptions from the posting of workers directive.
The increased pressure targets not only drivers but workers in general, stemming from the insistence that the production chain shall not be interrupted for the sake of saving money on stocking goods and reserves. The ETF says that “exploitation has won” in this case, but that it is not over. Does the EP really want to put oil on the flames fanned by those who say that all European construction is built on neo-liberal foundations? Let us hope that enlightenment will guide the voting in the plenary and that at least all progressives, whatever country they come from, will defend social progress and fair working conditions. The ball is in your hands.