More than 17 million workers living or working in another Member State are exposed to possible violations of their rights, either because of poor implementation of EU rules, disinformation or lack of coordination among Member States. Therefore, the EU plans to set up a new authority that will support fair labour mobility within the EU, allowing citizens and businesses to seize the opportunities offered by the single market while supporting cooperation between national authorities, including in preventing and tackling social fraud and abuse. ITEM cooperates with authorities and societal actors on all levels to make fair mobility a reality, in particular for frontier workers. ITEM research supports common endeavours to remove obstacles that hinder cross-border labour mobility in everyday life. Considering the longstanding critique on the EU’s “social deficit”,this new European Labour Authority (ELA) may help blow new life into the long untended European Social Model.

The new European Labour Authority (ELA)

Commission President Juncker first announced such an authority in September 2017 as one of the priorities for rolling out the European Pillar of Social Rights. After the legislative proposal in March 2018, an unusually speedy procedure followed. The European Commission, the European Parliament (EP) and the Council reached a provisional agreement on the proposal on 14 February 2019. The EP Committee on Employment and Social Affairs adopted the trialogue outcome shortly after. Momentarily, once the Member States’ Permanent Representatives (Coreper) confirm the agreement, it will be awaiting the vote of the EP plenary (expected for end March/beginning April). The intention is to complete the whole process before the upcoming EP elections in May.

Working towards contributing to clear, fair and enforceable rules on labour mobility, the Commission considers the ELA instrumental in improving the enforcement of EU law. The ELA is to organise “joint or concerted” labour inspections of potential abuses with national authorities. It also ought to address social security issues to bolster a well-functioning EU labour market. Furthermore, the unions achieved a crucial addition to the Commission proposal: They will gain the right to file complaints directly to the ELA instead of having to pass through the national authorities to help workers whose rights have been violated. However, a drawback is that some critical sectors like transport are – as yet – to be excluded from the ELA’s scope.

Fair Mobility Tool

The application of labour and social security rules in cross-border situations never ceases to cause difficulties. ITEM has therefore researched the added value of developing a “Fair Mobility Tool” for cross-border workers in the framework of the EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation. At the request of three Interregional Trade Union Councils (ITCs), ITEM conducted an exploratory study on “fair mobility” for the cross-border worker and the feasibility of such a tool. The study concluded that the tool could be an important means to address obstacles and reduce abuses in cross-border employment with flexible contracts. It could thus also be of use to the ELA.

With these research results, the unions will work together during all of 2019 to realise the fair mobility tool. ITEM and the three ITCs will present and discuss the results in a common event in mid-June.