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Mediator needed to help with working conditions for posted workers

| Text: Kerstin Ahlberg, editor EU & Arbetsrätt

The Swedish government should appoint a mediator or a working group to help the parties in certain trades agree on which conditions in their collective agreements that should also cover posted workers. This is the proposal from the Inquiry into new rules on postings, which presented its conclusions on 31 March.

Another proposal is to introduce subcontracting liability for subcontractors’ debts to posted workers in the construction industry.

The inquiry looks at how the “Enforcement Directive” adopted by the EU in 2014 should be implemented in Sweden. The directive is aimed at improving the enforcement and fulfilment of the old Posted Workers Directive from 1996.

The directive lays down, for example, that employers should be able to easily find information on what terms and conditions of employment they have to apply when they post workers to a foreign country. In Sweden this has not worked at all so far, the inquiry says. One reason is that trade unions and employers’ organisations have completely different views of what in their collective agreements constitute “minimum rates of pay” in relationship to the posting of workers directive, and what is included in “the hard nucleus” of protective regulations which posting companies are obliged to observe.  

The inquiry points out that Denmark has a system where the social partners agree on the conditions for posted workers, and that something similar might be needed in Sweden in order to fulfil the EU Court of Justice’s demand for predictability, accessibility and transparency. The government should therefore consider appointing a mediator or a working group for the relevant trades, the inquiry recommends. 

Another proposal is to introduce a subcontracting liability for the construction industry. In two regards, the liability should be stricter than the minimum set out in the enforcement directive. A worker who has not been paid by the employer should be able to turn to any contractor higher up in the chain, and the liability should become strict, i.e. the contractor should not be able to escape liability even when it has tried to make sure the subcontractor is a reliable actor.  

In that regard the Swedish subcontracting liability should resemble what exists in Norway. Yet in contrast to the Norwegian model, the liability should only cover posted workers’ wage claims, not those of domestic workers, the inquiry proposes. This is partly down to the short amount of time the inquiry has had at its disposal, but it also points to the collective agreement on main contractor liability which the Swedish trade union for construction workers, Byggnads, and the Swedish Construction Federation signed last year.


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