June 16, 2016 / 10:55 AM / a year ago

EU challenges French minimum wage law on foreign truck drivers

BRUSSELS, June 16 (Reuters) - The European Commission on Thursday challenged a French law that requires foreign truck drivers to be paid France's minimum wage when they make deliveries in the country, saying this hampers the functioning of the EU's internal market.

The Commission has already said a similar requirement for Germany's minimum wage to apply to truck drivers crossing into the country is illegal.

Truck companies from Eastern Europe, where wages are lower, have taken a big share of the trans-European road freight business, prompting complaints from hauliers in higher-wage countries.

But many EU countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, have also complained that the French and German laws throw up unjustified barriers to cross-border road transport.

The French law, due to come into force on July 1, requires foreign transport companies to pay their drivers the French minimum wage when they make deliveries in France and to appoint a representative there.

The French minimum wage is 9.67 euros per hour, more than many earn in the Eastern European trucking industry.

Germany introduced a minimum wage of 8.50 euros ($9.54) an hour last year and would apply that to any employee working within German borders, whether or not the worker or the employer is based in Germany.

That prompted a legal challenge from the Commission which argued that it ran counter to the EU treaty guaranteeing the freedom to provide services.

The Commission said in a statement on Thursday that the French and German cases could not be justified, as it created disproportionate administrative barriers, which prevented the internal market from functioning properly.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that the Commission would challenge the French and German laws.

The Commission will seek to clarify how truck drivers making international deliveries should be paid through legislation next year.

Paris and Berlin have two months to find an agreement with the Commission, failing which the case could eventually end up in court. ($1 = 0.8913 euros) (Reporting by Julia Fioretti. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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