The ‘Europe on the Move’ package includes a number of innovations, which are to contribute to a fair transport system on Europe’s roads. Does this instrument, however, really meet the requirements? This difficult question was debated during a panel discussion on July 3 in Brussels, in which the Austrian Transport Minister Jörg Leichtfried and the Swedish State Secretary Mattias Landgren took part and that was organised by AK EUROPA, ÖGB, DGB and the Swedish Trade Union Confederation.
At the beginning of the year, nine European Trade Ministers, among them the Austrian, the Swedish, the German and the Belgian Trade Minister, had joined forces, to oppose – as Road Alliance – social dumping and unfair competition on Europe's roads. The Commission’s new Mobility Package contains a lot of topics for discussion. Hosted by ORF-Brussels correspondent Cornelia Primosch, a high-level panel debated in the premises of the Permanent Representation of Austria to the EU in Brussels.
Jocelyn Fajardo, Deputy Head of Cabinet of Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc, pointed out that from the Commission’s point of view, the Mobility Package had to take into account the interest of the Road Alliance and also of those who supported further liberalisation. The Mobility Package is to ensure improvements of workers’ rights on Europe’s streets. Controls had to be extended and become more efficient; at the same time a stop should be put to letterbox companies. The Posted Workers Directive is just being reviewed at EU level; in the opinion of the Commission it is clear that it also has to include the transport sector – however, an application from the first day for all cross-border journeys would entail disproportionate time and expenses for companies and very little benefit for drivers.
From the point of view of the Austrian Transport Minister Jörg Leichtfried, the Package would bring both – improvements and changes for the worse. Together with the Road Alliance, he would oppose further liberalisation efforts until key requirements would be fulfilled. It was positive that cabotage, hence the cross-border takeover of journeys by foreign companies, was handled as posting starting the first day. And exactly that should also apply to all other forms of cross-border transport. Equal pay for equal work in the same place – from day one. This request also has the full support of Mattias Landgren, the Swedish State Secretary for Transport. The weekly regulation of rest periods, an obligation for drivers to return home every three weeks and the fact that companies have to provide drivers with appropriate accommodation whilst on the road, have to be seen as positive according to Leichtfried. Apart from that it was positive that the Commission demanded more controls. However, important components are missing: for example, the Commission proposal does not contain any ban of flat rate wages.
However, according to Karl Delfs, Confederal Secretary for Road Transport at vida, the Austrian Trade Union for Transport and Services Workers, this is a huge problem. As long as drivers would only get paid when they are on the road, driving times and rest periods would not be adhered to. In doing so, they would put themselves and other road users at considerable risk. If this demand is not included, “dying on Europe’s roads will continue”, Delfs said. The new proposal would also not lessen manipulation. The far too long transition period for new tachographs would indeed make risk-based control impossible. Apart from that, changes to the cabotage sector would not lead to simpler controls but result in an increase of illegal activities – abolishing maximum journeys within a week would be exploited at the cost of the Austrian goods transport market. Admittedly, the Mobility Package would bring some improvements, but it would also represent an attack on workers’ rights, which had to be prevented.