Parliament approves minimum wage for parcel couriers
The Belgian parliament on Thursday gave the green light to a new law that will guarantee thousands of couriers a minimum wage and the right to rest. Postal minister Petra De Sutter wants to put an end to abuses in the parcel service.
The new law will allow couriers to deliver parcels for a maximum of nine hours a day, for no more 56 hours a week, 90 hours every two weeks. Couriers will also be entitled to a statutory minimum wage and reimbursements for petrol, garage costs and car insurance.
Postal operators will be obliged to report to the Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications (BIPT) and to register the delivery times of parcel couriers. The law will also ensure that any SME delivering parcels for a larger postal operator will receive at least a minimum remuneration. This should make the sector less vulnerable to undeclared work or other tax fraud. In addition, a new reporting system should increase transparency.
End to race to the bottom
De Sutter wants to put an end to the "race to the bottom" in working conditions for parcel deliverers. "There are parcel companies that take advantage of couriers," she said. "These companies are the bad apples and we will get rid of them. Six out of 10 of the parcel companies inspected refuse to pay social security contributions, employ people on the black market, have unemployed people deliver parcels and so on. That's over."
The union of independent entrepreneurs Unizo fears that "this symbolic legislation will mainly affect SMEs". Opposition MP Michael Freilich (N-VA) agreed that excesses in the sector needed to be tackled, but described De Sutter's solution as "dramatic". "You are not only going to tackle the rotten apples, you are going to destroy the whole forest."
The text will come into force in 2024. If it is breached, contractors risk a fine of up to 5 per cent of their turnover.
© BELGA PHOTO VIRGINIE LEFOUR