Gruber Logistics, Samidani Trans. Sanchez-Bordona AG on true consent and correction of choice of law re minimum wage in employment contracts.

Update 16 July 2021 the CJEU yesterday held along the exact same lines.

In Joined Cases C‑152/20 and C‑218/20 Gruber Logistics and Samidani Trans (my shortening of the many parties involved, Advocate-General Sanchez-Bordona opined yesterday (no English version available at the time of writing).

The Opinion showcases a number of complex levels in Article 8 Rome I, the protective regime for individual employment contracts. The case also points to the complex task in addressing social dumping in the EU. The two cases involve a classic case of such dumping, namely international freight transport.

The AG first of all reminds the referring judges that they must consider whether Directive 96/71’s provisions on minimum wage for posted workers might not be applicable in the case (the referral decisions suggest they are not and the issue is not part of the preliminary reference).

He then dissects the cascade of Article 8 which, similarly to consumer contracts, gives parties full autonomy for choice of law with however a correction for the mandatory provisions of the default law which would apply if no choice of law is made. Whether provisions are mandatory or not, including for minimum wage and despite CJEU support for them being mandatory (Sähköalojen ammattiliitto, Case C‑396/13) continues to be the subject of national assessment: there is no EU harmonisation on same.

As for whether employees have truly consented, the odd provision of Article 3(5) Rome I means that it is the putative law which determines consent (this is notably different for the issue of consent for choice of court under Article 25 Brussels Ia). He does suggest that the Romanian statute at issue in one of the cases, should it (an issue left for the referring judge to decide) in fact oblige employees to consent to choice of law for Romanian law, negates true consent.

Geert.

European Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, 3.36 ff.

Dutch Supreme Court refers conflicts relevant questions on posted workers Directive to CJEU.

Update 4 December 2018 thank you to his Grace der Graf von Luxemburg for additionally pointing out pending case C-16/18 Dobersberger dealing with workers employed on international trains which also travel through the host Member State – Update January 2020 the Court held 19 December 2019 after Opinion Szpunar AG in July 2019. – and see scholarly review of similar Dutch cases here.

Thank you MPI’s Veerle Van Den Eeckhout for pointing out a highly relevant reference to the CJEU by the Dutch Supreme Court /Hoge Raad. The link between the posted workers Directive and conflict of laws is clear, as I have also explained here. The most interesting part of the reference for conflicts lawyers, are the questions relating to ‘cabotage’, particularly where a driver carries out work in a country where (s)he is not habitually employed (international trade lawyers will recognise the issue from i.a. NAFTA). Update January 2019 the reference is now here, the case is C-815/18.

One to keep an eye on.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed 2016, Chapter 3, Heading 3.2.5.

Commission effectively supplements Rome I using the posted workers Directive. Defines ‘temporary employment’ as not exceeding 24 months.

Update 15 July 2018 The text has now been adopted as Directive 2018/957. References to Rome I have been deleted however recital 9 and Article 1 reach a similar effect, tied to a reduced period of in principle 12 months.

Update 31 May 2017 A quick note by way of interim update: the proposal is stuck in Parliament (awaiting committee decision).

Thank you Fieke van Overbeeke for pointing this out to me. The EC have proposed to amend the posted workers Directive, to address unfair practices and promote the principle that the same work at the same place be remunerated in the same manner.

The amendment essentially relates to Article 8(2) of the Rome I Regulation, which partially corrects choice of law made in the context of contracts for employment. The proposal amounts to Union harmonisation of the concept ‘temporary employment’, as one not exceeding 24 months.

The proposal, if adopted, would insert an Article 2a in the posted workers Directive, 96/71, as follows:

Article 2a
Posting exceeding twenty-four months
1. When the anticipated or the effective duration of posting exceeds twenty-four
months, the Member State to whose territory a worker is posted shall be deemed to
be the country in which his or her work is habitually carried out.
2. For the purpose of paragraph 1, in case of replacement of posted workers
performing the same task at the same place, the cumulative duration of the posting
periods of the workers concerned shall be taken into account, with regard to workers
that are posted for an effective duration of at least six months.

Recitals 6-8 give context:

(6) The Rome I Regulation generally permits employers and employees to choose the law applicable to the employment contract. However, the employee must not be deprived of the protection of the mandatory rules of the law of the country in which or, failing that, from which the employee habitually carries out his work. In the absence of choice, the contract is governed by the law of the country in which or, failing that, from which the employee habitually carries out his work in performance of the contract.
(7) The Rome I Regulation provides that the country where the work is habitually carried out shall not be deemed to have changed if he is temporarily employed in another country.
(8) In view of the long duration of certain posting assignments, it is necessary to provide that, in case of posting lasting for periods higher than 24 months, the host Member State is deemed to be the country in which the work is carried out. In accordance with the principle of Rome I Regulation, the law of the host Member Sates therefore applies to the employment contract of such posted workers if no other choice of law was made by the parties. In case a different choice was made, it cannot, however, have the result of depriving the employee of the protection afforded to him by provisions that cannot be derogated from by agreement under the law of the host Member State. This should apply from the start of the posting assignment whenever it is envisaged for more than 24 months and from the first day subsequent to the 24 months when it effectively exceeds this duration. This rule does not affect the right of undertakings posting workers to the territory of another Member State to invoke the freedom to provide services in circumstances also where the posting exceeds 24 months. The purpose is merely to create legal certainty in the application of the Rome I Regulation to a specific situation, without amending that Regulation in any way. The employee will in particular enjoy the protection and benefits pursuant to the Rome I Regulation.

It would obviously be attractive to ensure the same rule is verbatim included in a future amendment of the Rome I Regulation.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed 2016, Chapter 3, Heading 3.2.5.