How would you describe the mission of the European Labour Authority and what have you achieved since ELA was launched three years ago?
The European Labour Authority (ELA) was created to help Member States and the European Commission to ensure fair and effective labour mobility within the EU, including by supporting cross-border inspections. The Authority is also mandated to facilitate cooperation in tackling undeclared work.
A lot has been achieved since ELA was launched. Throughout 2020, the Authority managed to deploy its first operational activities regarding information provision and inspections, while the pandemic posed another challenge it had to face: to build a team and start its work in the face of the public health crisis. 2021 was a year of transition for ELA, on all fronts. Thanks to growing resources we moved from the pilot phase to a stage of delivering quality and results. ELA relocated to Bratislava, Slovakia and integrated existing structures under its wings – the European Coordination Office (ECO) of the EURES (European Employment Services Network) and the European Platform Tackling Undeclared Work (previously under the EU Commission).
Providing coordination and support for cross-border enforcement activities has been a priority for the Authority from the start. ELA has developed a wide array of tools and procedures to support Member States with joint inspections. Despite the slowdown caused by the pandemic, ELA has already supported many inspections and I am pleased that we are on a good track to increase that number. But perhaps even more important are the concrete results from these inspections and the added value for national authorities that we already see, such as increased trust of inspected workers towards authorities speaking their language; increased trust between national authorities; increase of workers’ awareness on their rights; detected violations of the rules.
ELA is also working closely with Commission services to improve information provision at the European level (see Your Europe website). We have supported that understandable and more accessible information is within reach for Member States and other stakeholders, covering three thematic areas: posting of workers, seasonal workers and road transport. The integration of EURES into the core strategy and initiatives of the Authority implies synergies and a more comprehensive approach to labour mobility.
Let me also highlight ELA’s in-house network of National Liaison Officers (NLOs) representing all 27 Member States, as they are crucial for more effective cooperation at EU level. An additional important instrument of ELA is its Mediation function, focused on resolving disputes in labour mobility, always standing ready for use by the Member States.
In 2021, ELA successfully designed and implemented its first comprehensive and sector-specific initiative, the Action Plan on Seasonal Workers, and an awareness-raising campaign (#Rights4AllSeasons). In 2022, ELA launched the Framework for Action in road transport. We came out with information, cooperation and enforcement tools, and with a dedicated information campaign on road transport targeting drivers and operators.
During the pandemic we focused on the vulnerable group of seasonal workers. In relation to Ukraine, we mobilized our resources to provide information for those fleeing the war and created a dedicated subgroup under the Platform Tackling Undeclared Work aimed at coordinating actions to prevent undeclared work and exploitation of Ukrainian refugees. For 2023, we already have activities planned on the construction sector.
We are working to encourage Member States to use digital solutions in the field of labour mobility. ELA is also strongly invested in having social partners active and present in the design and implementation of our work, through the newly established social partner liaison function at ELA.
Recently ILO and ELA joined forces to facilitate a discussion on how to tackle the risks of undeclared work, labour exploitation and trafficking in persons fleeing the war in Ukraine. Are there other joint areas of interest?
I am glad we successfully kicked-off our cooperation with ILO, albeit in the context of Russia’s war against Ukraine. The first workshop jointly organised by ILO and ELA resulted in concrete recommendations to the EU and other European countries, including Ukraine and Moldova, on how to respond to the risks of trafficking in human beings, forced labour and undeclared work of the refugees and displaced persons from Ukraine.
Future collaboration between ELA and ILO will be coordinated within the context of our relationship with the European Commission and the Member States, but looking at the work done by the two organisations I am convinced there are many opportunities for closer cooperation between ILO and ELA that could benefit us both. We have already a stable link between ILO and ELA’s work in supporting Member States and the European Commission in tackling undeclared work. I believe in the future more could be done for instance on joint awareness raising initiatives, sharing of good practices, approaches to labour inspections, and capacity building.
What were your impressions of the collaboration, is there a possibility for joint ELA-ILO work in the future?
The impressions from this first collaboration were very positive and we are in favor of continuous cooperation with ILO. In our view, ILO’s broad mandate encompasses a number of issues of relevance to ELA (e.g. protection of migrant workers’ rights, fight against undeclared work). At the same time, ELA would be keen on sharing its operational perspectives and the experience it has acquired while supporting Member States with the practical application of EU labour mobility rules. For example, the lessons learnt from the cross-border inspections we have supported so far could be useful input for joint activities in the areas of labour inspections and capacity building. Moreover, the work done in other areas such as supporting the provision of information for mobile workers, strategic reporting, awareness raising campaigns, cooperation regarding the protection of social security rights of migrant workers, among others, could also benefit from a more collaborative approach.