Blümel and Kocher present control plan
Key action to target registration for short-time work, parcel deliveries and the construction industry
The 2021 control plan, presented on an annual basis by Finance Minister Gernot Blümel and Labour Minister Martin Kocher, this year again sets out enhanced controls by the Financial Police on parcel deliveries and the construction industry. As a result, in 2021 the Financial Police will continue their targeted operations in the area of wage and social dumping. As last year, there will be a focus on short-time work for which, to date, EUR 11 billion has been set aside to secure countless jobs in Austria. The aim is to prevent employees on short-time work, who are being funded by the taxpayer, from being simultaneously replaced by foreign subcontractors.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rapid rise in parcel delivery volumes. In 2020 alone, around 228 million parcels were sent in Austria, an increase of 9%. In the process, online retailers in particular have profited from the crisis. Regrettably, in this sector we repeatedly come across service providers that have created a competitive advantage for themselves using unfair business practices. For this reason, on grounds of fairness, it is important to conduct controls to ensure that the same rules apply to all, as well as with the aim of ensuring fair taxation as between digital and analogue business models," explains Finance Minister Gernot Blümel. Labour Minister Martin Kocher adds: " In the crisis, short-time work proved to be the most vital crisis instrument for keeping people in work. In my role as Labour Minister, I attach particular importance to the protection of workers, which is why infringements, the provision of false information and illegitimate claims by businesses to short-time work entitlements must also be consistently followed up and prosecuted."
Moreover, rising prices and the high number of foreign workers posted to Austria in the construction industry makes a detailed check on working conditions necessary. In total, just under 70,000 workers in Austria's construction industry were cross-border workers; they therefore make up almost 10% of the total number of workers posted to Austria.
The third area to be subject to greater scrutiny by the Financial Police consists of those businesses located in border areas. Above all, there is a need to conduct checks on wage levels compared to those of Austria's neighbours, with the aim of ensuring that Austrian firms are not being disadvantaged by fraudulent low-cost operations based abroad. Here, there will be targeted action at the borders. "Our motto was always: as accommodating as possible but as stringent as necessary. Our aim by the end of the year is to have conducted checks on at least 1 300 businesses operating in Austria from abroad. To achieve this, resources will be concentrated on this task," explains Minister Blümel, describing the targeted controls at Austria's borders.
In addition, this week an Amendment to the Anti-Wage and Social Dumping Act will be submitted to the Social Committee for a decision. This government bill includes new EU-compliant penalties addressing the criticisms raised by the European Court of Justice, as well as an improved instrument for the collection of security deposits, so that penalties imposed on foreign businesses can be secured more easily. The aim is for these measures to support the control authorities in their work as effectively as possible. "This coming year, we will focus on adherence to the terms of the Anti-Wage and Social Dumping Act. Through the revised Act, which will be decided on this week in the Social Committee, we will be able to ensure that EU rules on combating wage and social dumping are implemented, and we are also establishing important accompanying provisions aimed at combating unfair practices and unfair competition," stresses Kocher.
Review of 2020
Despite the decline in cross-border activity in the pandemic year 2020, control operations saw checks on 1 419 businesses in total and almost 70 000 workers. A total of 1 020 criminal charges were referred to the district administrative authorities by the Financial Police. In addition, the Anti-Wage and Social Dumping Competence Centre at the Österreichische Gesundheitskasse (Austrian Health Insurance Fund) successfully filed 4 201 charges relating to unlawful low pay. A total of 17 094 employees were affected, a quarter of all workers checked.