Interview mit Helmuth Markov in der Zeitung „Workers Tribune“

W. T.: You are the „father of changes“ in the European law concerning time and job conditions for drivers. Could you point out the main directions of these changes?

H. M.: Directives EC/561/2006 and regulation 2006/22/EC contain common rules for driving and resting times for professional drivers. They are valid on all streets, roads and highways within the European Union independent from the country where the vehicle and the employer’s enterprise is registered or whether the driver is an employee or self-employed.

It has been defined that a professional driver may drive up to 9 hours per day and has to have a resting time of at least 11 hours. Additionally, there are clear rules for resting times after certain intervals of driving. As regards the proper implementation and control of these rules, the so called digital tachometer has been introduced and the member states have to guarantee that after all 4% of all transports (measured against driven kilometres) have to be controlled – which make breaches of the rules less easy to hide.

W. T.: Unfortunately, the common cause of road accidents in Poland is that lorry drivers are overtired and they are forced to break the work time because of their employers. Lorry drivers are responsible for the accidents and breaking the work code, while high unemployment increases the pressure on employers. What solution do you see?

H. M.: The new harmonised rules and control mechanisms provide better social protection for drivers, fairer competition, and more road safety while compliance supervision is facilitated though the digital tachometer and the control of the supply contracts: It is now also the enterprises that can be hold responsible for non-compliance in cases where they place supply orders that contain unrealistic timeframes for delivery of freight. This certainly reduces the pressure on drivers. Proper application, of course, is easier to guarantee when there are strong drivers‘ representation organisations as those existing, for example, in Germany. Therefore I would recommend the Polish drivers to build up and maintain strong trade unions.

W. T.: The Polish government has a different opinion and speaks in favour of extending the weekly working time for all professional groups. Aren’t you afraid that the Polish attitude will cause adverse changes concerning working time in the whole EU?

H. M.: Unfortunately, it has not been possible during the negotiations to include working time rules into the directive. Therefore, it is clear on the one hand that driving time may not exceed 90 hours per week, with a reference period of 2 weeks. This means a driver may drive up to 56 hours during one week, but then only 34 hours during the following week. On the other hand, the overall working time can also include additional time for loading and unloading – which is up to a certain number of hours in accordance to the working time directive. Since the negotiations on the revision of the working time directive failed recently, there will at least not be an extension of the maximum working hours and on-call time/waiting hours further on have to be fully considered as working time – accordingly to a judgement of the European Court of Justice.

W. T.: The Polish-German relations have been the worst for many years. In your opinion, how is it possible to deal with this situation and shouldn’t Polish and German left wing take the initiative in this subject since the ruling right wing in Poland as well as in Germany can’t cope with this problem?

H. M.: Of course, there must be cooperation among the Polish and German left wing social movements and parties. Especially in the border regions there are already good approaches which can and should be strengthened and extended.

W. T.: What has Helmuth Markov been working on now in The European Parliament?

H. M.: There are always lots of political topics to deal with in the European Parliament. During the last months I have been focussing on a report called „designing trade policies to maximise trade’s contribution to poverty relief“ and an opinion on the Commission’s Green book on energy, both in the Committee on International Trade. In the Transport Committee I was draftsperson of an opinion on the promotion of clean road transport vehicles and currently I am preparing a report on road infrastructure safety. Additionally our delegation – as well as our political group in the German national parliament – is preparing for the German EU- and G8-presidencies and, as you may now, we are still working on the unification of left forces into one new „left party“ in Germany.

Das Interview führte Kuba Puchan.