Temporary staff at EU equality agency not treated equally, court says

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By Sandrine Amiel
EU flag is seen outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels
EU flag is seen outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels   -  Copyright  REUTERS

A ruling by a Lithuanian court has highlighted how the European Institute on Gender Equality (EIGE) has not been enforcing EU legislation on the equal treatment of temporary staff.

Attorney Rytis Rudzinskas, who defended five former employees of the Vilnius-based agency, told Euronews his clients' salaries were much lower than regular staffers, even though they worked for EIGE for about three years.

His clients were hired via a temporary staffing company, Rudzinskas said.

EIGE told Euronews that the former interim employees earned between €630 and €680 a month, compared to €1,300-`€1,400 for statutory staff carrying out similar tasks.

The employment agency was “contracted through an open public procurement procedure prepared in consultation with a legal expert experienced in the application of labour law,” EIGE told Euronews.

The court said interim staff should receive equal pay for equal work and ordered that each of the five former employees receive €4,000 as compensation for discrimination.

The sum is due to be paid by the employment agency but EIGE will be liable for damages if the contractor doesn't do so.

The paradox, Rudzinskas said, is that the ruling is based on EU legislation transposed into Lithuanian law — the EU Directive on Temporary Agency Work guarantees those working through employment agencies equal pay and conditions with employees in the same business who do the same work.

According to EIGE, however, interim staff working for the agency do not conduct the same tasks as statutory staff. “They are always narrower in scope and do not include financial responsibilities or other liabilities,” the agency said.

“In line with our commitment to the fair and equal treatment of all colleagues working at the Institute, in full respect for the legal framework governing their employment conditions we continue analysing all legally sound steps for the future and discussing them also with the contractor,” EIGE said.

The parties have 30 days to appeal the decision.

This article has been amended to reflect comments from EIGE.