Equal worker rights across EU: Deputy PM Asscher

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Workers across the European Union should no longer be exploited, and should be properly paid for honest work. This comes from Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher (PvdA) in an opinion piece for the Volkskrant. 

Equal pay for equal work. This should be a "golden rule for free traffic within the European Union", Asscher writes. He berates entrepreneurs and employers who turn their noses up to this rule and find loopholes that allow them to exploit migrant workers from, for example, Eastern Europe. This leads to a repression on the labour market in the western parts of the EU.

Because the unequal and unofficial way that some workers are treated in the EU means that both salaries and social protection are deteriorating, Asscher emphasizes the need for the new European Commission to take on this issue as a top priority. "The degradation of the free traffic ultimately undermines the legitimacy of the European Union."

Asscher points to an earlier warning that he sent out together with David Goodhart, in which he said a 'Code Orange' should be introduced to signal the negative aspects of the free labor market in the EU. The unequal competition and improper degradation can have a ripple effect for the social protection of all workers in the EU. The 'Code Orange' is used in the Netherlands to signal when the water is reaching perilously high levels in the rivers.

The Deputy PM applauds Brussels for taking on a stricter direction for employers who contract their workers abroad temporarily. "Finally all countries of the EU are prepared to take measures that facilitate anti-fraud actions. By working together more effectively at controls and collecting fines across the border. By pointing the finger at clients in construction for underpayment by subcontractors."

Asscher is also worried about the trick being pulled by companies that put their business abroad on paper, to make their activities in their own country cheaper.

"In the Netherlands we have taken big steps to counter fraud and abuse. With higher fines, extra inspectors to fight rogue employment agencies, more serious cooperation and more attention for the enforcement of the lawful minimum wage and collective labour agreements" Asscher writes. He will also introduce chain liability for all sectors with a new law this summer.

Cooperation among member states is necessary to effectively tackle injustices in worker's rights across the EU. Asscher has made agreements with his colleagues in Bulgaria, Poland and Romania to better counter abuse, and sees potential for more cooperation in the EU.

"The new European Commission will have to come with an ambitious agenda to really achieve results. The task is to recover the balance and put energy in new work and honest work. No dislocation by migration based on the erosion of social norms", Asscher writes.

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