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EU promotes false self-employment
Last week the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers took note of a deliberate action to circumvent binding EU-legislation on minimum conditions for posted workers.

The Enterprise Europe Network, which falls under the direct authority of the European Commmission, has advised a Czech company “Solara” that they would have a competitive advantage over local Germany and Austrian companies by registering workers as self-employed workers in Germany for installation works. This practice would clearly be in breach of national and EU-legislation (Directive 96/71EG). In addition to this, the Network has also endangered the management and workers of the Czech company, who now could face criminal charges in Germany and Austria for circumventing the obligation to pay social security contributions.

In the Newsletter of the Network in May 2010, the following is stated about the advice of the Network to Solara:

“Since local hires in those countries would have been too costly, Solara wanted to dispatch Czech workers to install and deliver roof-windows to new clients. It sought the Network’s advice on work-permit requirements. (…) A member of the Network’s Services and Retail Sector Group, Jitka, is an expert on the topic. She told Solara that while it wouldn’t need permits for Austria. It could get around the German permit restriction by registering self-employed workers at the local Chamber of Crafts. Armed with this information, Solara sent Czech workers to Austria and Germany, where it has won new business.”

For many years the European construction labour market has been overflowed by false self-employed workers, a practice which also has been condemned by the European Employers of the Construction Industry (FIEC).

The EFBWW is aware that some opportunistic and fraudulent company managers (assisted by external consultants) are openly posting false self-employed workers from one country to another in order to circumvent the application of minimum wages, social protection and insurance, as well as working conditions in general. These practices have largely contributed to wage dumping and social security evasion in the European Union. Although several countries have over the years tightened their legislation and enforcement towards the practice of false self-employment, the EU has taken no initiative to solve this problem. Now we have experienced that the EU, through its Network, is openly encouraging and promoting false self-employment. A practice which can only be described as scandalous!

As a European trade union federation we clearly state that immediate actions must be taken within the Enterprise Europe Network to restore and rectify the damage created, and that prompt and concrete actions are taken to avoid future cases.

Unfortunately, the problem of false self-employment is much broader. The epidemic problem of the false self-employed workers is spreading all over Europe as a “social disease”, as a means to cut wage costs and deprive workers of social rights. The EFBWW has nothing against genuine self-employment, but the practice of false self-employment should be combated also at EU level. By tightening EU-legislation and strengthening enforcement the EU, together with the Member States, could contribute to a ”social market economy” and a level playing field of social rights and fair competition, as foreseen in the Lisbon Treaty.

Related pages about:
EU Legislation Construction
Posting of Workers