What does the ETF think about the European Parliament reports on the Mobility Package?
Mid-December 2017, just before the winter break, the European Parliament published some of its draft reports on driving and rest time, cabotage, access to occupation and posting of workers. These documents put forward amendments to the European Commission’s Mobility Package proposals. The European Parliament (EP), one of the three key institutions involved in the EU law-adoption process, will now debate and further amend these reports internally. Then they will be approved by the competent EP committees and, in about 6 months from now, adopted by the EP plenary. There are two European Parliament committees who share responsibility over the four dossiers: EMPL (employment and social affairs) and TRAN (transport). At a first glance, the ETF believes the reports present a mix of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. But, since all the dossiers are so interconnected, there is a risk that the negatives will win out, hampering enforcement, destabilising markets and damaging drivers’ working and living conditions.
The European Parliament draft report on access to occupation – a EU set of rules aimed to eradicate letter-box companies and to strengthen cross-border enforcement – brings positive elements into the EU institutional co-decision process. Jens Nilsson, a Swedish social democrat who is the rapporteur guiding this report through the EP, proposes full inclusion of light goods vehicles within the scope of this EU regulation. This means road transport operators will have to fulfill criteria such as compliance with EU road transport rules even if they operate a van fleet. His report also proposes that illegal cabotage should be on the EU list of infringements which lead to the loss of operators’ good repute. Currently, this is not the case. A road transport company that carries out illegal cabotage can continue its activity without any risk of losing its authorisation to operate within the EU.
These amendments are all welcome, but two more elements would be more than needed to improve the access to occupation rules. One of the two would be a clear obligation for a road company to carry out a substantial part of its activity in the country of establishment. This, in the ETF view, would be the best way to eliminate the letter-box business model from the road transport sector, and to ensure road operators seek to establish themselves in a country by economic interest rather than by an interest to have access to low-income drivers. Omitted from the report is also the requirement for road transport businesses to declare more information in the currently existing national electronic registers and to have an up-to-date compliance record accessible in real time by control authorities across the EU. In its publication “The extra-mile towards a full-fledged enforcement scenario in the EU road transport sector” the ETF showed that these two elements are of critical importance for effective cross-border controls and for the identification of bad players.
Jens Nilsson is also the rapporteur for the EP draft report on cabotage. Among the positive aspects of his report is the requirement for cabotage to be carried out only in connection with an international journey to or from the country where the company is established. This reduces the risk of operators being registered in one Member State while operating on a permanent basis in other Member States. Also, the report makes it mandatory that cabotage is carried out in full respect of rules on the posting of workers rules and applying the minimum wages of the country hosting the cabotage operations. However, the report mentions nothing about a much needed cooling-off period. The cooling-off period is a span of time in which the vehicle engaged in cabotage should stay away from the country most recently subject to cabotage, and is meant to prevent vehicles operating on permanent basis within the borders of a single Member State.
The EP reports on driving and rest time have been much awaited by all the professional drivers and union members alike. The TRAN Committee report contains several disappointing aspects – a few, but of critical importance. To start with, Wim Van de Camp, the Dutch rapporteur from the centre-right EPP group, supports the European Commission proposal to give business more flexibility in redistributing rest periods over the span of a month. It is encouraging that the report forbids all weekly rest periods – be they of 24, 45 hours or more – to be spent in the truck cabin. But sadly this is then immediately undermined! The report proposes that this ban on rest in the vehicle can be lifted if parking areas are secure and provided with facilities. The report goes as far as setting minimum standards for secure and adequate parking areas: 2 toilets and 2 showers blocks for 75 parking spaces, 4 toilets and 4 shower blocks for 125 parking spaces and 6 toilets and 6 shower blocks for parking areas of more than 125 parking spaces. Frankly, it is hard to imagine how 2 toilets would qualify as ‘suitable facilities’ for 75 drivers spending their week end in a parking spot! The ETF is fully supportive to the improvement of parking areas, fully supportive of the rapporteur’s proposal for all weekly rest to be spent away from the cabin, but considers that reversing this interdiction and giving green light to rest periods spent in the cab is a clear step backwards in terms of the improvement of drivers’ working conditions, particularly in light of the recent ruling of the European Court of Justice (Case C 102/16), confirming that weekly rest in the cabin is forbidden.
On the other hand, we welcome the measures proposed by Wim van de Camp with regards to the digital tachograph regulation, notably the mandatory requirement to equip all commercial vehicles involved in international transport with a smart tachograph within 6 months of its launch on the market. We also support the clarification of the definition of a driver’s home, as the driver’s country of registered residence. In other words, if the new rules make it mandatory for operators to regularly repatriate their drivers, the driver will be going home as supposed to somewhere in Europe where the company is established or where their labour contract is based.
The EMPL Committee draft opinion on driving and rest time is much more encouraging. It rejects any form of flexibility in juggling with driving and rest times, thus offering a sound basis for good working and rest conditions for drivers. Georges Bach, EPP rapporteur for this dossier, also proposes the inclusion of light goods vehicles in the scope of driving and rest time rules, as long as they operate within a radius exceeding 100km. This means light goods vehicles will also be equipped with a digital tachograph, ensuring that drivers in this type of vehicle will be behind the wheel for only a limited number of hours per day and per week.
Regrettably, none of the two reports clearly stipulate companies’ obligation to cover the accommodation and / or travel costs relating to the driver’s weekly rest taken outside the cab, in adequate accommodation or at home. The ETF points out that paying for the driver’s travel to and from his country of residence is the current practice and it would be unacceptable to have it overruled by the EU law.
Posting of workers and its application to road transport is also in the hands of the two EP committees, EMPL and TRAN. In her report, Martina Dlabajova, Czech liberal MEP and rapporteur of the EMPL Committee calls for the full exclusion of international transport from the scope of posting, with no application of the posting rules until such time the Mobility Package is finally adopted. In other words, unfortunately, full application of country of origin pay no matter where we driver our trucks, buses or coaches in the EU! Merja Kyllonen, a Finnish MEP of the left-wing group GUE, will lead this dossier in the TRAN Committee. The rapporteur is still considering and assessing key aspects concerning the application of posting in road transport so the ETF cannot yet express its thoughts on this report. But one thing is sure: MEP Kyllonen does support the full application of posting to combined transport, and we fully back her on this.
So, what’s next? The ETF and its thousands of trade union members are confident that MEPs will work hard in the next few months to improve the above reports and really adopt rules for the drivers’ benefit – for the total eradication of illegal practices in the road transport sector and the improvement of drivers’ working conditions. From now on, every month the ETF will organise action days to give the opportunity to drivers and union members to express their concerns before the EU Institution they have elected. A calendar of actions will be published soon on our blog. The level of mobilisation is high, as important issues are at stake: job quality, pay, workload, family and social life. Watch us, and if you are a truck drivers sleeping, cooking and living and parking areas for weeks or a bus (coach) driver trying to cope with fatigue, you won’t be disappointed!