End of 2020, seven Member States – Bulgaria, Cyprus, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and Romania – challenged the Mobility Package in court. 15 court cases were opened against the Council and the European Parliament who in July last year adopted the Package with a large majority.
Such action just goes to show how important this Package is, in restoring social and economic fair play in the road transport sector which for decades had been ripped apart by social fraud, human slavery and unfair competition between operators.
For years, thousands of road transport operators shopped around Europe for cheap labour and tricks to easily escape controls – setting up fictive subsidiaries in countries that turn a blind eye to enforcement. The trick of all tricks. The operators in question have been doing transport on peanuts in money for clients to include giant retailers, who boast huge year-to-year profits. And they did that by paying illegal wages to drivers, circumventing social security contributions, and operating from letter-box subsidiaries.
With the Mobility Package, most of them will have to rethink their business model. Drivers who used to sleep in vehicles for months, away from home, working on the minimum wages of their countries of origin, will now have to return home, on operators’ expenses, every three weeks. And when working abroad, they’ll need to be paid the wages of the countries where they carry out their work. Likewise, vehicle fleets registered with fictive companies and operating years on end thousands of kilometres away, in France, Belgium or Denmark, will – under the new rules – have to be returned to the company base six times per year.
It’s no wonder that Member States, with an interest to keep this type of business alive, will challenge the new rules. Malta here is the best example: barely any road transport activity, but still almost 15% of vehicles circulating in the EU are registered on the island. So, Malta goes against the rules which limit the stay of its registered vehicles on the continent, such as the cabotage rules, and the return of the vehicle! Malta may want to cash in on the taxes of all these vehicles but has no interest in having the turn up on the island, 6 times a year.
What’s, however, astonishing: Belgium chose to support Malta in its action against the Mobility Package. The cabotage limits are the ones that upset Belgium, and this is brilliantly explained in the article rolled out by our Belgian affiliate, BTB! Belgian trade union organisations are already berating and calling out the Belgian government, who seems to miss the point: by challenging individual measures of the Package, Belgium may as well contribute to the annulment of rules that were meant to shelter its operators from unfair competition, and all drivers working on its territory from discrimination and social dumping. You can view actions taken by our affiliate ACV to flag out the flaws of the government’s conduct as well as a joint letter from BTB and ACV here.
The ETF is watching closely all developments involving the Mobility Package and we won’t let one bit go down the drain. And as always, we speak with one voice throughout Europe. In a recently opened survey regarding the driver return home, most respondents denounced fraud and law infringements are from Romania and Slovenia. This shows that in 21st century Europe all citizens want a decent life and non-discriminatory treatment! We are counting on it!
ETF Management Committee Statement