Rue Royale 45, 1st floor, 1000 Brussels, Belgium

Reports and Studies

EFBWW Executive Committee report on Major abuses, labour crime and subcontracting



At the EFBWW ExCo on 30th November, Prof. Sophie Robin-Olivier delivered a presentation on the exploitation of the posting rules. The posting rules are supposed to provide a correct way for businesses to deliver services in other Member States, but in reality, they have developed an increasingly abusive character, particularly in the construction sector.

Evolution of posting: The EU prioritised the internal market over workers’ protection, exemplified in the 2007 cases of Viking and Laval. More recently, EU law has moved towards a focus on social rights protection exemplified by the recast of the posting of workers legislation and recent case law.

However, there is need for real change: Prohibiting the provision of workers by foreign temporary employment agencies, could be effective in combatting exploitative practices. The German example, prohibiting self-employed and temporary work contracts in the meat packing industry, demonstrates that it is possible to end this type of exploitation.

The European Labour Authority (ELA) could have an impact on fraud related to the posting of workers. ELA is cooperating with EUROPOL on cross-border enforcement actions against labour exploitation. Imposing an extension to subcontracting liability at the EU level is another measure, but it is too early to say whether this is effective.

Mrs. Szonja Szabo, a specialist on human trafficking at Europol, outlined the activities of Europol to tackle human trafficking and labour exploitation and was happy to note that the ELA can facilitate cooperation between Member States. For Europol, labour exploitation in the context of human trafficking is hard to identify – often trafficked workers do not see themselves as being exploited – and therefore underreported.

Subcontracting within posting remains one of the biggest obstacles to secure and decent jobs. ‘Progressive’ public procurement could effectively tackle social dumping and promote fairer competition. Social dumping is turning into outright criminal activities, where foreign workers are exploited, hired on precarious contracts. Exploitation in terms of wages, human trafficking and poor accommodation is a major concern and issue. Sadly, these problems are hidden by long and complicated subcontracting chains. We must fight for a more transparent and cleaner subcontracting.

The EFBWW Subcontracting Campaign will be launched in 2023. The campaign was developed in the framework of the large study on subcontracting and temporary work agencies that the EU institutions are now undertaking. The study is part of the review process of the Posting of Workers and Enforcement Directives, and it is supposed to identify whether additional legislative action is needed in this area.

The campaign has three main goals:

- Show the negative impact of subcontracting in the labour market and its consequences for workers;
- Draw the European Commission’s attention to the points that need change and present our proposals;
- Influence policy makers – the main target of this campaign, including MEPs and national governments.

Affiliates will play a crucial role in this campaign, as they will be asked to raise the subcontracting issue at the national level and promote the campaign on their social media.