Only Germany and France have more posting workers than Belgium in the EU. Their number was put at 160,000 in 2014, which is 76 percent up on 2010. Nearly 60 percent of them work in the building sector. The reason for this success is simple: posted workers are often (a lot) cheaper than Belgian workers, the VRT's EU expert Rob Heirbaut explains.
"We sometimes see wage gaps of 50 percent. This makes it impossible for businesses to compete (with foreign companies), and it also puts pressure on workers' wages. Then you get what people call 'social dumping'. We want more justice, more equality", Marianne Thyssen (Christian democrat) told the VRT. "We wanted posted workers to enjoy the same salary conditions as Belgian employees."
It's not just about the salary, but also about other financial benefits
A Polish worker working at a Belgian building site should have the Belgian minimum wage for the building sector. Thyssen thinks that he should also enjoy other financial benefits that Belgians have.
"Is there an extra month of pay at the end of the year? Do they get a bonus for working on a holiday? Are transport costs being covered? Is there a compensation for unemployment due to bad weather conditions? All these things should also apply to posted workers", Thyssen explains.
What about social security?
Same earnings is one thing, social security is another. This will stay in the country of origin under Thyssen's proposal, although social security contributions paid by employers can be 30 percent lower abroad. Getting workers to adopt Belgian standards would trigger an "enormous administrative problem" according to Thyssen. "This would prevent them from enjoying the social security rights when they need them."
The European Commission is to discuss Thyssen's proposals next Tuesday.