TRANSPORT ministers from eight European states have brought to the attention of the EU Transport commissioner Violeta Bulc their growing concerns over alleged violations of EU labour laws and illegal business practices within the road haulage sector, which they claim has led to unfair competition and "social dumping".
(Wikipedia defines "social dumping" as using cheaper labour than what is available on site, either migrant workers or moving production to low-wage regions.)
The transport ministers, from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy and Luxembourg and non-member Norway, claim that "the fundamental rights such as the free movement of goods and services, which we wholeheartedly support, are increasingly being invoked in an abusive way in order to avoid conforming to European regulations, which are the guarantee of fair competition in the internal market".
The ministers have also drawn attention to the emergence in the sector of so-called "letterbox companies" - set up to circumvent legal and collective agreement obligations in another EU country - "whose unfair business practices are more and more frequent."
The recommendations made to the commissioner include prohibiting drivers from sleeping in their vehicles during designated weekly rest periods, stepping up and harmonising checks on HGVs, introducing measures to put an end to "shell company" activity as well as action to curb the growing trend of light commercial vehicles (vans) carrying out international transport operations.
An EU source told Lloyd's Loading List that the European Commission shared a number of the views expressed in the letter and was currently working on a number of initiatives for the road haulage industry, to be presented in 2017, "to bring more clarity and a better enforcement of labour legislation".
"Certain rules are unclear and are implemented differently depending on the member state. This is the case regarding restrictions on cabotage for example. The rules on the establishment of road transport undertakings need to be revisited to address the phenomenon of 'letterbox' companies.
"By the very nature of the transport industry, many of its workers are highly mobile and this creates issues specific to it. For example, what salary should drivers be paid when working in 10 different countries in a single month?"
Source : HKSG.