The situation of migrant workers in temporary employment agencies

Doc. 10237
28 June 2004

Motion for a recommendation
presented by Mr Skarph�dinsson and others

This motion has not been discussed in the Assembly and commits only the members who have signed it

1.         One of the statutory aims of the Council of Europe is to promote and safeguard human rights. Migrants constitute a particularly vulnerable category of people exposed to the possible violation of their human rights. The Parliamentary Assembly on many occasions has proved its concern for the problems encountered by migrants in Council of Europe member States.

2.         In this context, the Assembly expresses its concern at the activities practiced by some unscrupulous Temporary Employment Agencies (TEAs), which increasingly use loopholes in national and international legislations relating to the freedom of movement of services and labour in order to get profits at the expense of the basic rights of migrant workers, both skilled and unskilled.

3.         There is more and more evidence showing that numerous TEAs, practice unacceptable methods. As they hire migrant workers from the countries where high unemployment and low wages are predominant and make people desperate in their search for any work,, they make them accept lower wages that those paid to the local work force and they expose them to sub-standard conditions that would neither be offered nor accepted by the local trade unions, including accommodation, medical treatment, termination of employment, length of working hours, general hygiene, education, leisure facilities or right to visit families. For example, some migrant workers spend up to six months in unpopulated areas without a possibility to meet their families. In general, these methods can be defined as a form of social dumping.

4.         The rights of these migrant workers to protest and campaign for better conditions and wages are in many cases inexistent. It is common practice that emerging leaders have their contracts terminated, and are sent back to their home country and put on a black list.

5.         These practices obviously undermine the competitiveness of the local labour force, and simultaneously reduce the competitive abilities of companies, that for ethical or other reasons cannot or will not adapt to these shameful practices. Furthermore, this development weakens the ability of the trade unions to negotiate acceptable settlements, and will also weaken the local industry that behaves ethically. Similarly, payment of taxes by TEAs, both to the respective state and local authorities is often avoided, and in consequence less money is available for the society at large for keeping up welfare. In the long run this phenomenon will lead to a lower standard of living for the local resident population, weaken the trade unions and harm the competitiveness of the traditional companies of the host country.

6.         Both international law and domestic legislation have not been adapted in accordance with the swift development of the TEAs in the new environment of the European labour market. It is very difficult for both trade unions as well as the respective authorities of the individual countries to monitor the activities of the TEAs which skilfully avoid transparency and use loopholes and shortcomings of national law in the countries in question to avoid giving correct information on actual wages, tax payments etc.

7.         The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe invites the governments of the member states to assist the Assembly in gathering the necessary information on the development of the TEAs on the European labour market with the aim of producing guidelines and proposals that may lead to a set of rules that in future will prevent violations of basic human rights through the unscrupulous methods exhibited by some of them to date.

Signed [1]:
SKARPH��INSSON �ssur, Iceland, SOC
ALIYEV Bakhtiyar, Azerbaijan, SOC
BRAUN M�rton, Hungary, EPP/CD
ETHERINGTON Bill, United Kingdom, SOC
G�L�I�EK Ali Riza, Turkey, SOC
Lord JUDD, United Kingdom, SOC
KALANOVIC Verica, Serbia and Montenegro, EPP/CD
LUCYGA Christine, Germany, SOC
OLIN Kalevi, Finland, SOC
van THIJN Ed, Netherlands, SOC
TK�C Vojtech, Slovakia, EDG
de ZULUETA Tana, Italy, SOC



Socialist Group
Group of the European People’s Party
European Democratic Group
Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group
Group of the Unified European Left
Not registered in a group