Support for minimum wage - also for road transport but some confusion among the MEPs on what applies where

Date: 26, March 2015
The European Parliament had on the evening of Wednesday (25/3) a long debate on German minimum wage and road transport. The debate was based on a question to the Commission from the Employment Committee of the Parliament. Introducing the question, MEP Marita Ulvskog (Sweden, S&D) made it clear, that what is happening on the roads of the EU lacks dignity and respect for the people who are driving the trucks.
For this reason the Employment Committee had asked the questions which employment conditions apply to drivers in international transport, and what will the Commission do to protect the social rights of these drivers.
Transport Commissioner Violetta Bulc answered on behalf of the Commission and was clear on a number of issues: The European Commission welcomes minimum wages in the member states, a safe and socially acceptable road transport is a pillar for the internal market and social dumping must be fought. When it comes to transport, a minimum wage must be compatible with the free movement, non-discriminatory and the measures must be proportional. The Commission, continued Mrs Bulc, has not finished assessing the German rules and their impact and cannot at this stage give a clear answer. But the Commission remain committed to fair social standards and to ensure that applicable rules are applied all over the EU. The planned new road package for 2016 will address these issues, including a targeted review of the posting of workers directive and an engagement with the social partners.
What followed was a long list of MEPs expressing their views and concerns - up to 60 MEPs in total from all political groups and from most member states.
“It was clearly an issue that engaged the MEPs across all line and there were some very clear indications of what the Parliament thinks in general,” says the CEO of NLA Søren H Larsen who followed the debate. “The general line is that minimum wage is welcomed. The disagreement starts on whether it should apply to road transport or not. Some MEPs came up with strange arguments, saying that in no circumstances should operators from other countries be forced to pay wages of the host country. These statements show a lack of knowledge of the principles of the posting of workers directive, the services directive etc. It is in fact often the case that operators from other member states only can operate in another member state on the basis of the wages in that member state. Thankfully other influential MEPs from the main political groups made it clear, that the application of the minimum wage in a member state for cabotage operations is a logical step” continues Soren H Larsen. “This was stated from representatives from many of the political groups”
The administration of a minimum wage for the operators and the impact on SME’s was also a major theme of the debate.
“Some MEPs expressed concerns that the administration of the minimum wage would be burdensome for SME’s. However, the same MEPs did not seem to take into account that precisely steps like a minimum wage can help raise freight rates to levels where also the SME’s can compete with the bigger road transport and logistics companies”, says Soren H Larsen
In the end the Commission was not ready to say its position on the application to road transport of the German minimum wage, but judging from the political elements of the debate there was a clear support for applying a minimum wage to cabotage as a solution to the problems facing road transport in the EU today, and some support also for applying it to international transport, but not to transit transport.