Protests from road haulage industry force EC to act

Published: 20 May 2015

Protests from road haulage industry force EC to act
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The European Commission has begun legal action against Germany in response to their continuous application of the country’s new minimum wage law to international truck drivers following widespread protests from the road haulage industry.
 
They announced their response on Tuesday saying that, while they welcomed the introduction of a minimum wage in Germany, its effect on road haulage restricts the freedom of service and movement of goods across the EU in ‘’a disproportionate manner’’.
 
The German government launched their €8.50 per hour minimum wage on 1st January 2015 and implemented it across the country, including on any non German truck drivers driving across Germany. Almost a month later Germany suspended the law’s application on foreign truck drivers after a flood of complaints from foreign haulage companies and transport operators about the long delays at borders being caused by officials checking the truck drivers pay details.
 
The European Commission has now decided that the suspension of the law alone is not sufficient as it does not give any legal certainty that it will not be re-introduced in the future. Following several weeks of talks with Berlin, Warsaw and other EU capitals, the commission has now sent a formal notice to Germany. This is the first step in a procedure that could end up at the European Court of Justice if further talks fail to resolve the issue.
 
The German labour ministry now has two months to respond to the notice.
 
The Commission have said ‘’Whilst fully supporting the introduction of a minimum wage in Germany, the Commission considers that the application of the Minimum Wage Act to all transport operations which touch German territory restricts the freedom to provide services and the free movement of goods in a disproportionate manner.’’
They continued ‘’The Commission considers that more proportionate measures are available to safeguard the social protection of workers and to ensure fair competition, whilst allowing for free movement of services and goods.’’
 
The International Road Transport Union, welcomed the Commission’s actions, saying “National measures like the German minimum wage law applied on highly mobile trades, such as international road transport, add significant administrative and financial burdens to operators and seriously undermine the proper functioning of the internal market. Germany now has a responsibility to Europe’s transport operators and Economy to resolve this issue quickly.”
 
Perhaps the European Commission have ‘over-reacted’ by issuing Germany a notice. This situation again highlights the difference in wages across the EU for truck drivers and many established EU members are finding it difficult to compete against drivers from Poland, Lithuania and other new member states as their wages are a fraction of the national minimum wages in those countries.

While driver wages remain low in countries like Poland they will continue to capture more and more of the international haulage market and then begin to chip away at the domestic haulage market as well which is clear to see already in both Germany and the UK.
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