On 13 March 2018, the EU Commission presented a proposal on the establishment of a European Labour Authority within the framework of the Social Fairness Package. This week (24 May 2018), MEPs of the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs for the first time had the opportunity to debate this important dossier with Commissioner Marianne Thyssen. The extremely well attended Committee on Employment and Social Affairs demonstrated the great interest in the subject ‘EU Labour Authority’.


In her speech before the EU Parliament, Commissioner Marianne Thyssen once again underlined fair labour mobility and the strengthening of the social dimension as objectives of the Regulation. In combination with other tools, in particular the Revision of the Posting of Workers Directive, which will be voted on in the EU Parliament's plenary next week, as well as the Revision of the Regulation on the Coordination of Social Security Systems (Regulation 883), related to which trilogue negotiations are to be started soon, the proposal on the Labour Authority would close an important regulation gap. According to the Commission, it shall be the responsibility of the Labour Authority to support national authorities in their work and in doing so to contribute to the fight against abuse and fraud. However, according to Thyssen the objective was not to assume the responsibilities of national authorities or to interfere in existing systems of the social partners.


Demands of MEPs

The EP Rapporteur MEP Jeroen Lenaers (EPP) called the Commission proposal a good basis for the discussion. According to the Rapporteur, the new Authority should work efficiently and bring genuine practical advantages. Hence, it would be impossible for the Labour Authority to take over all responsibilities. Therefore, the area of responsibility had to be defined in more detail. Lenaers also raised the question whether a greater involvement of the social partners would be possible. It had also to be more clearly defined as to how inspections should be carried out in border areas.


MEP Georgi Pirinski, Shadow Rapporteur of the S&D faction, pointed out that there should be clearer rules to establish when infringements against fair mobility existed. The ECR faction (MEP Ulrike Trebesius) raised the question of the financial feasibility of the ELA and the security aspects of data storage. MEPs of the Greens (MEP Terry Reintke) and the Left faction (MEP López Bermejo) demanded the proposal to be sharpened to ensure that the Labour Authority could make a genuine contribution to fight wage and social dumping.


MEP Michael Detjen (S&D) was in favour of social partners having the right to apply for controls. MEP Agnes Jongerius (S&D) raised the question how employees or trade unions could contact the Labour Authority and whether the Authority would be in a position to make access to complicated files easier. She also supported the creation of a Black List containing the names of letterbox companies.


Thyssen announces talks with employee representatives

Commissioner Marianne Thyssen demonstrated determination in her closing words and appealed to MEPS to ensure that the project of the European Labour Authority would become a success. It was the target to make the Authority ready for operation by 2019. The issues, which were raised by MEPs, had to be followed up. Here, Thyssen, apart from the dialogue with the EU Parliament, also referred to the Advisory Group, which had been created at Council level to discuss the Commission proposal in thematic blocks. Thyssen also announced dialogues with employee representatives.


Further road map in the EU Parliament

According to the EU Parliament, work on the Regulation could now advance swiftly: as foreseen by the road map of the European Parliament, the draft report of the EP Rapporteur should be available by the 11th of June; amendments could be submitted until the 10th of July. A day, which points the way ahead, will be the 18th of October 2018: not only the proposal on the Labour Authority shall be voted on in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs on this day. Also the hotly discussed proposal on the new Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions will be voted on on this day.


Position of the Chamber of Labour

The creation of a European Labour Authority has been a demand of the Chamber of Labour for many years. From an employee’s point of view, not only the initiative itself, but also the fundamental contents of the Commission proposal have to be welcomed. However, some points require to be sharpened. For example, the objectives and the responsibilities of the Authority have to be defined more clearly; there should be no interventions with regard to industrial action; and the involvement of the social partners should be strengthened.


In order to effectively tackle social fraud and wage and social dumping, the support and coordination tasks of the Authority should also be supplemented by enforcement rights. In addition, mechanisms should be created to address Member States that continue their refusal to cooperate. One option would be to provide the Labour Authority with the power to initiate proceedings directly before the ECJ to have national legislative provisions, certain practices, or authorities’ lack of cooperation reviewed.


For further reading:

Video Committee on Employment and Social Affairs EU Parliament, 24th May 2018

AK Position Paper: Establishing a European Labour Authority

AK EUROPA: Social Fairness Package of the Commission

AK EUROPA: The planned European Labour Authority – an effective tool against wage and social dumping or a placebo?