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2003 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 110 E/141

Answer given by Mr Patten on behalf of the Commission

(14 November 2002)

As already indicated in the reply by the Commission to Written Questions P-3175/01 and P-0019/02 both
by Mr Cappato (1), the Commission has the possibility of raising human rights issues with the Government
of Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) in bilateral meetings and when participating in Union political
démarches agreed with the Member States.

The question of the arrest and disappearance of the five leaders of the ‘26 October 1999 Movement’ has
been raised through these channels. Unfortunately, it has been impossible so far to receive clear
information from the Government on the five missing Laotians.

As regards the continued detainment of former government officials Mr Latsamy Khampoui and Mr Feng
Sackchittaphong, both prisoners of conscience, the Commission, and Member States, have repeatedly
appealed to the government of Lao PDR to have them released on humanitarian grounds.

As these efforts have not yet yielded a positive result, the Commission will continue to raise these issues
through all available channels.

(1) OJ C 160 E, 4.7.2002.

(2003/C 110 E/160) WRITTEN QUESTION E-2977/02

by Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL) to the Commission
(22 October 2002)

Subject: Distortion of competition as a result of the low costs of employing Polish construction workers
not covered by a collective agreement in the Member States of the European Union

1. Can the Commission confirm that the social dialogue introduced in Poland in connection with the
adoption of the ‘acquis communautaire’ of the European Union involves discussions being held once a year
by the Polish government with national umbrella organisations of employees and employers, that these
informal discussions do not lead to agreements and that they are not followed up by discussions between
employees’ and employers’ organisations operating in individual sectors?

2. Can the Commission also confirm that there are no national or regional collective agreements in the
construction sector in Poland, which includes housing, commercial and industrial buildings, roads, bridges
and dams, but only agreements at the level of individual companies or their local branches?

3. Is the Commission aware that Polish construction workers are being squeezed out in their own
country by Ukrainians who work for lower pay, and that this is encouraging Poles to look for work on
building projects in the existing Member States of the EU, primarily in Germany where, following the
completion of a number of major projects, there is a high level of unemployment in the construction
sector, and in Austria, Finland and Sweden?

4. Is it attractive for employers to recruit Polish construction workers as they can in practice be
employed on lower pay and less favourable conditions of employment than workers who have been
resident for long time in the Member State concerned, insofar as they are not covered by a Polish collective
agreement or by a collective agreement of the country where they are employed  provided that such an
agreement has not been declared generally binding , so that companies not belonging to an employers’
organisation which is a contracting party to a collective agreement have no other obligations than to pay
the minimum wage?

5. Does the Commission expect this problem to have been resolved by the end of the seven-year period
following Poland’s accession to the EU during which labour migration will be restricted, if at that time
there are still no generally binding collective agreements in Poland and other Member States? If so, on
what grounds? If not, what additional measures are needed in order to prevent workers from being
recruited on the basis of low employment costs?

6. Is the Commission preparing measures with a view to including migrant workers in collective
C 110 E/142 Official Journal of the European Union EN 8.5.2003

Answer given by Mrs Diamantopoulou on behalf of the Commission

(13 December 2002)

1. The EC Treaty (Article 138) stipulates that ‘The Commission shall have the task of promoting the
consultation of management and labour at Community level and shall take any relevant measure to
facilitate their dialogue (…)’. The EC Treaty also stipulates (Article 139), notably ‘Should management and
labour so desire, the dialogue between them at Community level may lead to contractual relations,
including agreements’.

In the negotiation process, the Commission emphasises the relations between social partners in the
candidate countries and the development of a tripartite consultation process as well as the development of
an automous bipartite dialogue.

A PHARE project on social dialogue is currently being carried out in Poland in order to promote social
dialogue and its link with national level consultations. From information at the Commission’s disposal, the
tripartite body in Poland (Tripartite Commission for Economic and Social Issues) after a few years of lack
of operation, is now holding a few sessions each year, and is trying to lead to more concrete outcomes
(such as agreements, pacts etc.).

2. According to information at its disposal, the Commission confirms that there are as yet no national
or regional collective agreements in the construction sector in Poland.

3. The Commission has taken note of the situation raised by the Honourable Member. It is up to local
and national authorities to ensure that there are no infringements of the law, notably through labour
inspection. It must be emphasised, however, that candidate countries have committed themselves to
participating in the fight against illegal migration (both from their own countries as well as from third
countries), which was recently selected by the Member States as a major Union priority at the European
Council in Sevilla (21 to 22 June 2002).

4. The Commission has insisted on the development of social dialogue and collective agreements in the
candidate countries. Any improvement in wages and working conditions may help to limit the desire of
their workers to migrate to Member States.

Directive 96/71/EC (Article 3) of the Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 1996, concerning the
posting of workers in the framework of the provisions of services stipulates that Member States shall
ensure that, whatever the law applicable to the employment relationship, the undertakings guarantee
workers posted to their territory, the terms and conditions of employment which, in the Member State
where the work is carried out, are laid down by law, regulation, administrative provision and collective
agreements, in many matters.

5. The Honourable Member asks whether it will be possible, at the end of the transitional arrangements
for the free movement of workers from the new Member States, to employ Polish workers at lower rates of
pay and on less favourable employment conditions than workers of the host Member State.

Transitional arrangements for the free movement of workers have been agreed with candidate countries
likely to become Member States at the next enlargement of the Union (except Malta and Cyprus). They
provide that there will be no free movement for two years, followed by an initial review after two years on
the basis of a Commission report and then the notification of Member States to the Commission if they lift
the transitional arrangement or if they will continue it for a further three years. After five years, the
transitional arrangements end, unless Member States show serious disturbances of the labour market, in
which case two additional years are possible.

Although free movement of workers is restricted under the transitional arrangements, the right to equal
treatment is not. This means that once a national of a new Member State is working in a current Member
State, even during the transitional period, he or she must not be discriminated against on grounds of
nationality. It will therefore be contrary to Community law to pay Polish workers less than similar workers
who are nationals of the host Member State.

6. Negotiation of collective agreements is the responsibility of social partners.