A TRANSFORMATIONAL change in the law to prevent the undercutting of Scottish workers’ wages and ensure a ‘fair day’s pay’ for migrant workers is at risk under Tory Brexit plans.
Labour MEPs in the European Parliament have helped ensure a major reform for temporary migrant workers in industries such as construction and farming, which will ensure they receive the same wages as their UK counterparts.
The new directive will stop employers exploiting EU freedom of movement rules and undercutting the wages of UK workers by paying ‘posted workers’ in line with the rules in their home country, where the minimum wage may be lower. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn first called for the rule-change before the 2016 EU referendum.
But the UK Government now has two years to transpose the legislation into UK law, and Tory MEPs voted against the change in the European Parliament – meaning it could be scuppered by Brexit.
Labour MEP for Scotland, Catherine Stihler, said:
“This huge victory for workers has been a long time coming, and demonstrates the difference that MEPs can make in Brussels.
“It can’t be right that workers posted to the UK are not receiving a fair day’s pay because employers are exploiting this loophole. It’s fundamentally wrong, and also has the effect of undercutting UK-based businesses.
“This was undoubtedly a huge topic of concern for voters in the EU referendum, but this proves how we can reform EU law. It’s ridiculous that we’re about to walk away from the top table where these decisions are made.
“Brexit could now scupper these hard-fought workers’ rights, so I challenge Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson to persuade the Prime Minister to stand up for these workers who are so vital for our economy.”
A ‘posted worker’ is defined as an employee who is sent by his employer to carry out a service in another EU Member State on a temporary basis. This differentiates them from mobile workers, as they are – by definition – not integrated into the host Member State’s labour market.
There are about 2.3 million posted workers in the EU (2016), primarily in construction, agriculture and road transport, representing a growing amount of workers, now around 1% of the total EU workforce. The UK, despite its size, hosts the 7th most amount of posted workers (3.7% of all posted workers in Europe), and sends the 15th most posted workers (2.1% of posted workers in Europe).
In 2016, more than 57,000 workers were posted to the UK, suggesting there could be around 5,000 in Scotland.
In 2009, after the Lindsey Oil Refinery strikes in Lincolnshire, it was claimed that Italian construction contractor IREM posted many Italian and Portuguese contractors to the site to undercut the wages of British workers.
In the European Parliament in Strasbourg last week, MEPs voted by 456 votes to 147 to adopt the principle of ‘the same pay for the same work at the same work place’. The labour law of the host Member State will now be applied to the posted worker after 12 months.