Workplace Rights: Foreign matters

The recent dispute at a Lincolnshire oil plant raised pertinent questions about employment rights in a global economy. The refinery granted a construction contract to an Italian firm, which sent its own staff to work on the contract, rather than use qualified local workers. Under the EU Posted Workers Directive (PWD), workers sent to another state are entitled to the minimum employment conditions laid down by its national law. European Court rulings indicate that anything beyond this interferes with companies' freedom to provide services under the EU treaty. So foreign workers posted here are entitled to the minimum wage, but not the going rate for the job agreed at local level. Effectively, employers in lower-cost countries can undercut British workers' pay and conditions. Unions are campaigning for the PWD to be amended to strike a better balance between employers' economic freedoms and the need to prevent 'social dumping'. Such radical reform is unlikely any time soon, raising the spectre of further industrial unrest.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors - e-mail:

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