Equal pay for equal work, says Macron in Salzburg

According to official site of Wage Union, French president Emmanuel Macron met the Austrian chancellor as well as the Czech and Slovakian prime minister in Austria on Wednesday. Some analysts say that the French president is speeding up the division of V4 countries: while Czechs and Slovaks may still be involved in discussions, he has already turned his back on Poles and Hungarians.

The latest meeting focused on the employment abroad of workers from low-pay Eastern EU member states, i.e., “posted” workers. Mr Macron said:

– The practice that companies pay the taxes and social charges for posted workers of their home country rather than the target state is a betrayal of the EU’s principles, creates a negative wage competition and social crises (in the east and the west alike).
– The current situation boosts populist trends across Europe and undermines people’s confidence in the EU.
– He urges a reform: he suggests that the payment regulations of the target country should be applied for posted workers.

According to the report of Slovakia’s Pravda however, PM Fico did not accept Macron’s proposal on the EU guidelines yet, claiming that it would deprive Slovakian workers of their competitive edge, in other words, that they are satisfied with lower wages.

Although Macron and Fico seem to have raised the same issue, i.e, that workers coming from abroad (from the Eastern member states to France and from outside the EU to Slovakia) take away the local people’s jobs and push wages down, Slovakia’s problem would still not be solved by the EU document in its current form since it would only bind the citizens of EU member states.

Czech newspaper Hospodářske noviny quotes Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka’s statement that living standards need be levelled in the various regions of the EU because German and Austrian companies only pay 30-40 per cent of their home wages when it comes to their Czech employees working in the Czech Republic. The conclusion is that the pressure on multinational companies must be increased, otherwise the wage inequalities can never be eliminated.

Felvidek.ma portal also refers to PM Sobotka’s statement that higher wages must be required from Czech and/or Eastern European companies as well as from Western corporations operating in the former Eastern Bloc.

Austria’s Der Standard reports that the meeting focused on the practice of posting workers within the EU, and cites President Macron’s words that it is “a betrayal of the European spirit in its essence” and a hotbed for populism. The current EU regulation allows companies to temporarily post their employees to another EU member state for a maximum period of two years. Ever since the EU’s enlargement in 2004, this practice has been increasing the competition due to the influx of Eastern European workers.

Having realized that the long-term posting of workers may create a “social dumping”, the European Commission limited this period to two years but Mr Macron still finds it too long and proposes to cut it to one year. The Austrian chancellor also considers the two-year period too long. (There were 166 thousand posted employees working in Austria in 2016, the time-proportionate figure has already grown to 90 thousand in the first half of 2017, and the trend continues.) They think that Brussels’ measures taken so far are insufficient.

“You must give equal pay for equal work,” Mr Macron asserted, adding that the single European market and the free movement of workers is not meant to create a race to the bottom in terms of social regulations.

The Czech and the Slovakian party both said they were “close to reaching a consensus,” which could be the basis of a reform. Mr Macron aims to gather the support of as many Eastern European companies as possible, while Mr Fico said he would do his best to convince V4 countries to back the reform. No official agreement has been reached however, and Mr Macron wants to make alliances by October 23, the next meeting of EU labour ministers.

As we wrote, no plans have been made for French President Emmanuel Macron to visit Hungary but an official meeting between the V4 group and France could take place before the year goes out, at a yet unspecified date, the prime minister’s press chief told news website Origo on Thursday.

Photo: MTI/EPA/Christian Bruna