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Conditions for road transport workers splits Europe into east and west
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Conditions for road transport workers splits Europe into east and west

| Text: Björn Lindahl, photo: Girteka

Truck drivers were sacrificed in order to reach an agreement when the changes to the directive on the posting of workers were passed early this summer.

“According to the Commission, the conditions in the road transport sector are so unique that there is a need for special rules on the posting of workers there,” writes EU&Arbetsrätt.

The directive on the posting of workers makes it possible to demand the same pay for a foreign worker as for a domestic one, when a company post workers to a different country within the EU. Previously, foreign workers were only guaranteed the minimum wage. This meant two people doing the same job in the same workplace could be paid different wages. The rules on how to compensate for travel, diet and accommodation have also varied. 

The Nordic countries have been at the forefront trying to change the directive on the posting of workers. The EU Council of Ministers finally reached a compromise on the 21st of June. The directive must be implemented by member states two years after coming into effect.

Transport workers were, despite 27 months of negotiations on the directive, excluded from the new rules.

“Lorry drivers are not nomads of the road,” protested the European Transport Workers’ Federation, ETF, which demands better working conditions for the trade.

“International road transport drivers will still be subject to today’s directive for the time being, until the Parliament and the Council of Ministers reach a compromise on special rules for these workers,” writes EU&Arbetsrätt.

Rapid growth in Lithuania

Lithuanian Girteka Logistics is one of Europe’s largest transport companies. Unlike many others, they employ all of their own drivers. In a press release, Girteka writes that the number of lorry drivers has increased from 8,000 at the beginning of the year to 10,000 on the 6th of August this year.

The company aims to have 10,000 lorries and 20,000 employees by 2021. In 2017 Girteka ordered 2,000 new lorries from Volvo in what was one of the biggest orders the company had ever received.

“European companies are greatly challenged by a lack of truck drivers, it’s estimated that 20% of German trucks are standing still in 2018 due to this shortage,” writes Girteka.

In many European countries, the transport sector sees Girteka as a threat. 

“Girteka is the Lithuanian transport company which Norwegian transport companies love to hate,” wrote the Norwegian trade magazine Logistikk & Ledelse earlier this year.

With the ability to use cabotage, the company can compete even for routes in a different country from its home country. 

Wages based on local conditions

When Girteka’s drivers work outside of Lithuania, they are paid according to conditions in the country where they operate.

“Those who drive in Russia or between Russia and Germany have one salary. It follows the market in which they drive. They are home a lot and see their family often. Then we have those who drive further south in Europe. They see their families less often. And we have those who drive in the Nordic region. For instance Sweden and Finland. They are paid even more. We are talking some 2,000 euro net after tax,” Girteka’s head of information Kristian Kaas Mortensen told Logistikk & Ledelse.

“Finally, we have those who drive three axel trucks in the north of Norway. They are paid the most, and earn more than 3,000 euro a month after tax.”

In order to work in Norway, the drivers must attend a special course, but they then get a salary that is three times what they would have been paid in Lithuania. 

With salary differences on this scale, road transport has become a hot issue in the EU, splitting east and west. Companies from low-wage countries are often accused of social dumping using domestic transport workers. 

Will become part of a bigger transport packet

Conditions for truck drivers will now be coordinated with the current negotiations on the EU Mobility Package. There will be a tightening of the rules for cabotage (how much a foreign truck driver is allowed to drive in a different EU country). According to the EU Commission’s proposal, a foreign transport company will be allowed to be present for no more than 48 hours, and cannot return for another seven days.  

The transport industry has been opposed to having truck drivers being regulated under the directive on the posting of workers, and has demanded the industry should be regulated through separate legislation because it is so different. 

The EU road transport sector employs nearly 11 million people directly, which is around 5% of the total EU workforce. Road transport represents half of all transport of goods within the EU.

Girteka has 10,000 drivers

On 5th August, Girteka Logistic in Lithuania celebrated hiring their 10,000th truck driver. The aim is to double that in five years. 

EU&Arbetsrätt

The Nordic Labour Journal cooperates with EU&Arbetsrätt. Editor in chief Kerstin Ahlberg is a regular contributor to NLJ.

Read the latest edition of EU&Arbetsrätthere (in Swedish). 

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