EU takes much-needed action on undocumented workers’ rights

The European Commission today presented its Communication on the application of the Employers’ Sanctions Directive together with renewed Action Plan on smuggling and report on developments on the Pact on Migration and Asylum.

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) welcome the publication of the evaluation of the Employers’ Sanctions Directive, which was long overdue, but remain extremely critical of the overall approach to addressing irregular migration.

Responding to the European Commission’s Communication on the Implementation Report of the Employers’ Sanctions Directive, ETUC Confederal Secretary Ludovic Voet said:

“It is surprising to see the Commission communicate its focus on tackling exploitation of migrants; the measures published today remain marginal in an approach to irregular migration which actually fosters exploitation.

"The communication on the Employers’ Sanctions Directive sets out some much-needed actions to make undocumented workers’ rights more meaningful in practice. The European Commission, and the new European Labour Authority, should work together with social partners and civil society organisations to implement safe reporting and effective complaints mechanisms, with no risk for migrant workers with irregular status to face immigration enforcement. Safeguarding the rights of undocumented migrant workers is the best way to tackle labour abuses.

"We also need decent pathways for labour migration and regularisation, and to honestly evaluate why undocumented workers usually pay the price rather than unscrupulous employers”.

PICUM Director Michele LeVoy said:

“The Commission calls for governments to establish safe reporting, so workers can engage with law enforcement and exercise their rights, without risks due to the immigration status. The Commission also recognises that undocumented workers face challenges to file complaints and pursue legal procedures, as is their right under the Directive, due to risks of immigration enforcement.

"We urgently need firewalls to be set up – measures that would allow undocumented migrant workers to interact with law enforcement and labour authorities and receive remedy – including due wages and compensation - without any risk of deportation. Access to residence and work permits must also be strengthened.

"Without this, the existing monitoring and complaints mechanisms result in workers being deported while some businesses line their pockets with stolen wages. Justice systems need to work for all workers, regardless of migration status”.