Our new memorandum calls to the European Labour Authority to do more to protect the rights of mobile workers

In 2020, at least 17 million European citizens live or work in another Member State. Among these European citizens, there is a large number of mobile young workers.  With Workers without Borders ,we advocate for the European institutions to do more to protect the rights of mobile workers. Last week, we sent a legal memorandum to the newly established European Labour Authority calling to take initiative in order to protect the rights of young workers.

  • Among others, we asked them to:
  • analyse the risks linked to mobility,
  • produce a report indicating possible corrective measures,
  • provide support for capacity building in the Member States,
  • develop an online information platform for young mobile workers.

In the context of European integration, the principle of the internal market has always been a cardinal point. The internal market is based on what are commonly known as the “four freedoms”: the free movement of services, goods, capital and persons.  The freedom of movement of persons, in its economic accession, is presented in a dual manner: the freedom of movement of workers and the freedom of establishment.

Thus, this central text of European legislation provides for “the abolition of all discrimination, based on nationality, between workers of the Member States as regards employment, remuneration and other working conditions“. 

Consequently, any national of a Member State of the European Union who leaves his or her country of origin to work in another Member State must enjoy these rights and equal treatment with nationals. 

However, more than sixty years after the establishment of the Treaty of Rome, one may ask what the reality is?

Studies conducted by European Alternatives show that there are still significant issues and disparities related to young mobile workers.  Indeed, while the right to mobility is well respected in so far as European citizens have the material possibility to move to another Member State and work there, deeper difficulties are felt on practical aspects. 

First of all, there are difficulties linked to the status of employee, particularly in terms of discrimination. On average, a young mobile worker is much more likely to be a victim of discrimination than a native worker. For example, many young mobile workers will be discriminated in terms of remuneration, since they will be paid less than nationals for an equivalent position and level of qualifications. In addition, they will be more likely to work in precarious jobs than nationals (fixed-term contracts, temporary work, etc.). Finally, they have difficulties in knowing the labour law applicable in their host country and will therefore be more vulnerable to misconduct by their employers and will find more difficulties to defend their rights since they do not know them properly.

Studies conducted by European Alternatives show that there are still significant issues and disparities related to young mobile workers.  

On the other hand, there are some difficulties related to citizenship itself. Indeed, young mobile workers will find more impediments to settle in another Member State. In particular, it will be more complicated for them to find housing, as they may be discriminated against or for documentation reasons. In France, for instance, many landlords ask tenants to provide their last three pay slips, a certificate from a national guarantor and/or a receipt for the rent for their old accommodation. However, a young mobile worker may not have all these documents, which can cause great difficulties in finding accommodation. 

These citizenship problems, although not direct causes of the status of employee, are closely linked and must be taken into consideration. Indeed, a citizen who is not able to find housing or to have adequate health insurance will not be able to work properly and in a decent way.  

In France, many landlords ask tenants to provide their last three pay slips, a certificate from a national guarantor and/or a receipt for the rent for their old accommodation.

More recently, there is another problem related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, this crisis has highlighted those who have been dubbed “essential workers”. These are workers who perform tasks that are particularly necessary to society, so that they have been forced to continue their work despite the containment measures. These are workers in health, food, human services and safety occupations.

These essential workers have been hard hit by the crisis because they are on the front line and have direct links with the public. Moreover, they unfortunately lacked protection, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, and therefore put themselves in danger in order to protect us and allow us to live a “normal” life despite this health crisis. 

What European regulations apply to protect these young workers?

Primary legislation of the European Union – which refers to the treaties which are basis or ground rules for all EU action.

Secondary legislation – which includes regulations, directives and decisions – are derived from the principles and objectives set out in the treaties.These sources of secondary legislation take the form of directives (i) and regulations (ii).

How can we ensure the effective and equal application of these rules at Member State level?

According to all these issues, there is an important question about the role of the European Labor Authority established by the regulation 2019/1149. The European Labor Authority was set up by Regulation 2019/1149 to promote the effective application of the regulations provided by the European Union in terms of the rights of mobile workers and the coordination of social security systems. The ultimate aim is to strengthen fairness and confidence in the internal market.

The Regulation establishing the ELA sets out a number of means of action which could be relevant to the worrying situation of young mobile workers. This is particularly the case for concerted and joint inspections, which make it possible to carry out investigations in one or more Member States. 

The objective of the legal memorandum and research we’ve carried out, is to lead to the establishment of a special program and dialogue with the European Labor Authority. In the long run, the aim would be, ito build an advocacy case for the European Commission and European Labor Authority in order to promote the rights of these mobile young workers. 

Furthermore, we also call on trade unions, national authorities and employers as stakeholders to promote the fundamental rights of these young mobile workers who are too often forgotten.