About the campaign
In construction, subcontracting is always a major factor of exploitation, fraud, and other labour abuses, especially in a cross-border context. If done in an appropriate way, subcontracting should not necessarily be a problem. Trouble starts when subcontracting is simply used to reduce costs and to escape legal responsibilities.
Often, companies use subcontracting chains to disguise employment relationships, circumvent tax and social security payments, avoid joint and several liability, and hide from controls by labour inspection bodies.
These subcontractors repeatedly vanish without paying the workers their wage due after months of working.
It is time to put an end to this.
The EFBWW urgently calls for new rules on subcontracting and their enforcement
1 Stronger subcontracting rules in public procurement
EU legislation must ensure that all Member States set rules to limit the subcontracting levels in public procurement projects to a maximum of one or two sub-levels, allow only companies (incl. subcontractors) which engage in collective bargaining to participate in a public contract, and apply full joint and several liability.
2 Limit subcontracting chain vertically and horizontally
EU legislation must ensure that subcontracting is limited to a maximum of one or two sub-layers. Also, the permitted percentage of employed workers, the number of tasks, and the percentage of the turnover generated down the subcontracting chain must be limited.
3 Full joint and several liability
EU legislation must ensure unconditional and comprehensive systems of joint and several chain liability in construction in all Member States, including in cross-border subcontracting chains. Due diligence escape clauses must be prohibited.
4 Due diligence
The Commission must present an EU directive for mandatory human rights due diligence in companies and their supply and subcontracting chains. Workers’ rights should be at its centre, with effective remedies, access to justice, and dissuasive sanctions.
5 Digital enforcement tools for workers
The European Commission (EC) should present a legislative proposal to introduce a European Social Security Pass (ESSP) that will enable real-time access to data during inspections on construction sites. We expect more European support for social identity cards in construction as a tool against social dumping in (cross-border) subcontracting chains, with respect for the autonomy of the social partners involved.
6 Digital company registers
A new European directive shall introduce minimum standards for digital national company registers and for their digital interoperability, allowing real time enforcement and controls during inspections.
7 Ban intermediaries and protect posted workers
All relevant EU rules must be revised so that only companies which pursue a real construction business in their home Member State (‘substantial activity’) are allowed to post workers to another country. Intermediary labour only suppliers must be prohibited to post workers. Posted and migrant workers need easy access to justice.
8 Strengthen trade union workers’ representatives and EWCs
The EWC directive must be revised to fully enable trade union and workers’ representatives to monitor and enforce workers’ rights in supply and subcontracting chains. EWCs and works councils must get full access to all information regarding the subcontracting and purchasing policies of a company and to worksites for audits.
9 Effective labour inspections and complaint mechanisms
A new EU directive shall set minimum standards for labour inspections and complaint mechanisms based on ILO Convention No. 81. It shall also empower the European Labour Authority to take up its full responsibility in the area of cross-border enforcement. It should allow victims as well as third parties, including trade unions, to file complaints addressing practical barriers that make complaints mechanisms ineffective or inaccessible, in particular for mobile and migrant workers.
10 Same work, same rights, same salary
European and national legislation must guarantee equal treatment in all public and private procurement, so that the subcontractor applies to his workers the same working conditions and social security rights that the main contractor applies, including the same collective bargaining agreements.