The recent events in the United Kingdom, where several dozen Portuguese workers were prevented from going to work at the Total refinery in Lindsey in northern England, are the consequence of rising unemployment and the feelings of xenophobia that have sought to portray migrants (emigrants and immigrants) as being to blame for the crisis, which is not the case. The causes of the crisis are to be found elsewhere, namely in the capitalist and neoliberal policies promoted by the European Union.
Can the Commission say what steps are being taken to protect the rights of all workers, create more jobs with rights and thereby prevent the spread of racist and xenophobic behaviour?
(EN) The Commission is aware of the strike in the United Kingdom (UK) at the Total plant in Lindsey (Lincolnshire). The Commission understands that Italian and Portuguese workers were brought to Lindsey in the framework of a subcontract awarded by Total UK to the Italian firm IREM. The Commission also understands that the British employment relations service, Acas, published a report stating that its inquiry has found no evidence that Total, and its sub-contractors, Jacobs Engineering or IREM, have broken any laws in relation to the use of posted workers or entered into unlawful recruitment practices.
The situation referred to by the Honourable Member does not seem to relate to the free movement of workers based on Article 39 of the EC Treaty. Free movement of workers is to be distinguished from the freedom to provide services based on Article 49 of the EC Treaty, which includes the right of undertakings to carry out services in another Member State in the context of which they may send ("post") their own workers temporarily.
It therefore appears that the industrial action has put in question the right to provide services. The Commission is of the opinion that the posting of workers directive is an essential instrument, giving companies the benefit of the internal market, while allowing Member States, in Article 3, to take the necessary measures to protect workers' rights. The Commission is determined to continue to ensure the balance between protection of workers and economic freedoms and avoid unfair competition. In this context, the Commission, together with the French Presidency of the Council, has asked the European Social Partners to draw up a joint analysis on this subject. The Commission looks forward to receiving the result of their discussions.
The Commission understands the anxiety of European workers fuelled by the current crisis. The Commission adopted a European Economic Recovery Plan in November 2008 to limit the impact of the crisis on the real economy and on jobs. The Commission has adopted on 4 March a further contribution to the March 2009 European Council to help cushion the negative impact of the crisis and prepare the EU for future sustainable growth. Furthermore, the Czech Presidency of the Council will organise an Employment Summit on 7 May 2009. As previous experience has shown, the way out of the crisis is not through erecting barriers or pandering to protection, but upholding the values of openess and free movement.