John Crombez: “Europe is legalizing social dumping”

  • The Commission has decided that the Belgian anti-social security fraud (using foreign labor) initiative is illegal.
  • Secretary of state John Crombez is furious.

The European Commission has just ordered Belgium to put an end to its anti-social security fraud (using foreign labor) system, which was supposed to combat social dumping.

How did we get here?

It’s the kind of issue that occurs frequently. Workers from other European countries, mostly from the East, work in Belgium at wages that undermine any competition. Their employers don’t pay a single euro into the Belgian social security system. Is this legal?

It depends on the situation. European legislation lets foreign companies temporarily send workers to another country such as Belgium. The only requirement is that these workers have a type A1 form issued by their country of origin. They can then work in Belgium while remaining under the auspices of their own country’s social security.

The only problem is that this practice lends itself to a great deal of fraud. Companies, mostly Belgian, create post office box enterprises abroad and send Romanian, Polish and other nationals to Belgium. In this manner, the employers sidestep the Belgian social contribution requirements, thereby lowering the companies’ labor costs considerably.

The struggle against this fraud is very difficult for Belgium. Once these workers have this document in their possession, neither the Belgian administration nor its legal system can do anything about it. Only the country issuing the document is able to revoke it. When Belgium attempts to work with the issuing country, its requests often go ignored. It’s not in the issuing country’s interest to comply since it will then lose social security contributions. Toward the end of 2012, Belgium enacted a regulation to fight this phenomenon. The working principle: the Social Inspectorate and judges can suspend the A1 certificate if social fraud is proven.

But here’s the rub: the European Commission has launched infringement proceedings against Belgium. The reason: it constitutes a barrier to the free movement of workers.

The secretary of state against fraud, John Crombez, (SP.A) is furious. “We sent a detailed statement to the Commission. It never responded. We then wrote to the president, and the following day without explanation, an infringement proceeding is opened.”

In Crombez’s eyes the Commission is playing a dangerous game. “It’s permitting social dumping, and it upholds it. Family businesses are telling us that they are on the verge of bankruptcy because of this unfair competition. Either they close up shop, or they play the same game. I have nothing against active immigration to Belgium but the rules need to be enforced.”

BERNARD DEMONTY

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