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Hungary, Poland plan to overturn EU's cheap labour rules

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban, pictured September 2018, said that the changes to the original Posted Workesr Directive (approved by the European Parliament in May 2018) are "contrary to the prohibition of discrimination"

Budapest (AFP)

Hungary and Poland said Thursday they will appeal to the European Court of Justice to overturn a hard-wrought compromise struck between EU members last year on the bloc's rules regarding cheap labour.

The Hungarian government said in a statement it had filed an appeal with the ECJ in the hope that a revision of the EU's Posted Workers Directive -- agreed by member countries last October and approved by the European Parliament in May -- would be "invalidated".

Poland filed its own complaint with the ECJ on Wednesday, against the reform that limits the time period to a maximum of 12 months during which firms can send workers from low-wage countries to wealthier economies on short-term assignments without paying their host countries' social charges.

The Posted Workers Directive was first introduced in 1996, but has caused resentment in western countries such as France, Germany and Austria, which argue it amounts to "social dumping" that creates unfair competition on their labour markets.

Nevertheless, there has been staunch resistance to any changes to the directive in eastern and central Europe, where most of the less expensive workers come from. Poland is the EU member that benefits most from the regulation.

Under the compromise struck last October, the EU's 28 member states agreed to limit the time period to 12 months, but conceded it could extended for six months at the company's request.

Workers would not only receive the minimum salary of the host country, but also all of the extra bonuses.

The office of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that the changes to the original rules "introduce obligations and restrictions contrary to the prohibition of discrimination."

And in Warsaw, Polish deputy foreign affairs minister Konrad Szymanski criticised the "protectionist character" of the new text, which he said ran contrary to the principle of free movement of labour and services within the EU.

Tensions have been running high recently between Hungary and Poland and their EU partners over a number of key issues, such as immigration policy and planned changes in the judiciary, which Brussels see as undermining the rule of law.

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