Final summer season, Belgium and Europe woke as much as one of many worst circumstances of social dumping in current historical past.
A documentary, “Qatar alongside the River Scheldt”, uncovered the human trafficking scandal at a building website of the chemical firm Borealis within the Belgian metropolis of Antwerp.
Subcontracting corporations recruited as much as 174 employees from non-EU international locations like Ukraine, Bangladesh, Turkey or the Philippines. As soon as in Europe, these highly-skilled employees have been mercilessly exploited, together with via late or non-payment of salaries, unhealthy housing and lack of security at work. One employee would later testify that he had labored below higher situations in certain Gulf countries.
Sadly, a sequence of current scandals all through Europe illustrates these practices are not the exception within the European Union. Nor are they merely an issue of illegality.
A new study commissioned by The Left within the European Parliament units out how even authorized types of subcontracting have grow to be the enterprise mannequin for exploiting employees within the European Union.
Silvia Borelli, professor of labour legislation on the College of Ferrara, and writer of the examine, highlights how European guidelines on subcontracting enable employers to separate energy and income from threat and duty, akin to wages and dealing situations.
Even bona fide subcontracts pose structural issues, weakening employees’ rights and safety with a view to adjust to situations imposed by the lead firm or the primary contractor.
The implications are sometimes dramatic for employees. The advanced webs of tangled contracts enable massive corporations to hide their function and evade legal responsibility when accusations of exploitation and abuse floor. The work of labour inspectors turns into notably troublesome.
To make issues worse, subcontracting additionally negatively impacts energy relations within the office. It fragments the labour power entrenching inequality and precariousness, negatively affecting labour actions and employees’ bargaining energy.
Underneath stress from commerce unions and employees’ mobilisation, some international locations have responded with legislative initiatives.
Germany banned subcontracting in components of the meat trade. Spain banned non permanent company or interim work in high-risk sectors. Italy and Spain, as an illustration, included “job safety clauses” of their public procurement laws.
Nevertheless, present EU-law nonetheless actively promotes subcontracting, primarily with a view to stimulate competitors and competitiveness. This, nevertheless, goes the detriment of employees’ rights and labour legislation.
Subcontracting needs to be the exception not the rule. Subsequently, as Borelli examine reveals, we’d like a European regulation for first rate work within the subcontracting chain.
Other than banning subcontracting in notably harmful companies and limiting the size of subcontracting chains, a core facet of such a regulation can be to carry the lead firm collectively and severally chargeable for the situations of the employment contracts all through the chain.
This may enable employees to hunt redress if the subcontractor fails for no matter cause to fulfil its obligations. The direct joint and a number of other legal responsibility presently established within the 2014 Enforcement Directive for posted employees is proscribed to at least one hyperlink within the chain solely, and due to this fact comparatively straightforward to avoid by, for instance, inserting a letterbox firm.
With a purpose to fight inequality and keep away from a race to the underside on working situations, to the extent doable, employees of subcontractors needs to be assured the phrases and situations of employment that might be relevant in the event that they have been employed by the lead firm or the primary contractor.
Moreover, the examine is true to name for amendments to the European Fee’s proposal for a Directive on company sustainability due diligence to extend transparency, set up legal responsibility and contain unions and employee representatives all through the method.