Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Financial Times on Germany 14

The Financial Times on Germany 14

Brussels wants fewer rules on migration

By Sarah Laitner in Brussels and Bertrand Benoit in Berlin, site
Published: Jun 13, 2007

European Union countries were threatened on Wedesnday with court action for imposing undue red tape on foreign workers, intensifying Europe's heated debate about labour movement from the lower-wage east to the west.

Vladimir Spidla, EU employment commissioner, argues that some of the 1m Europeans temporarily "posted" by their employers to work in another member state face disproportionate regulatory burdens.

Germany is seen as one of the worst offenders, demanding a German-language version of foreign workers' contracts and pay slips even if they are posted there for only a few days.

Mr Spidla's threat of court action underlines the EU's divisions over labour movement, amid western fears of "social dumping" by cheaper operators based in central and eastern European states that recently joined the bloc.

German officials said the requirement for posted workers to submit documents, including their contracts, in German was necessary because of the high incidence of illegal work in such sectors as tourism and construction.

One official said: "When customs inspectors raid a construction site, they have to move fast. They do not have the time to translate the crew's contracts from Polish to German."

A spokeswoman for the German labour ministry said the government was "persuaded that the measures in question are justified and necessary. We are on the same line as other member states whose legislation will also be reviewed by the Commission".

However, Mr Spidla, a former Czech prime minister, argues that "there are various legal ways of ensuring that fair competition prevails, without involving protectionism".

In a further example of red tape on the services sector, Austria and Sweden are among several member states to require a foreign company to have a representative in the host country to which they send staff.

At least 1m people in the EU are classified as "posted workers" – employed by their company in another member state for between five days and six months. They account for 0.4 per cent of the EU's working-age population.

Mr Spidla said he could take cases to the European Court of Justice before the year end. The court has ruled that countries' controls must be proportionate.

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