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Wednesday May 30, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

The EU has approved new rules to give seasonal workers fair pay + better working conditions. It will cost. What now for the traditional chalet holiday?



There are winners and there are losers.

The European Parliament has adopted revised regulations on so-called 'posted workers' - the temporary seasonal staff hired by companies to work in other EU countries.

It means that seasonaires such as chalet hosts and resort staff are entitled to the same level of pay as local workers and accommodation that meets local standards.

They will also be subject to the working time directive, which limits hours to 35-hours a week - after which overtime must be paid at a higher hourly rate - and given two days off a week.

So far so good perhaps, but that means company costs will go up and they will be passed on - ski holidays prices are set to go up.

For the holiday skier the traditional chalet ski holiday will likely be more expensive and services will be reduced.

EU member states have two years to implement the rules in their national legislation but France, which has more catered ski chalets than any other destination, has already adopted them.

It sounds like a bit of nightmare for the British chalet firms, and it is.

They will have to deal with this alongside the uncertainty about what happens after the UK's Brexit transition period ends in December 2020.

Ski chalet hostUncertain future for the seasonaire















Some think the amended rules on posted workers will have a big impact but others say they simply offer more clarity on the status quo.

On-the-record many ski operators we have spoken to are saying it offers 'clarity' and they want to 'obey all the rules' plus 'follow the law'.

Some of the biggest (no names mentioned!) won't even comment, and that tells its own story.

Off-the-record they see their business model changing before their eyes and the future is bleak.

"Some of the salaries you see on the ski job sites will have to change or they will be illegal," one source in the industry who didn't want to be identified told PlanetSKI.

"If we are to comply with the 35-hour working week we'll have a 300 per cent increase in our salary costs. The price of a catered chalet will go up and what will happen is we will have a lot of smaller operators go out of business."

Katie Waddington of Zenith Holidays is a member of SBIT - Seasonal Businesses in Travel - which is made up of UK tour operators and businesses in the French Alps.

She says chalet companies are already meant to be adhering to local employment laws and if they are not they are operating illegally.

Zenith chalets in Alpe d'HuezNo immediate change for Zenith Holidays in France




















" I think it gives a little more clarity however it does not really change the secondment process that most companies use and will continue to use for the next two winter seasons," she told us.

"We are more concerned with what happens after the transition period once we are no longer allowed to second staff to the EU - there is no clarification at all on what the process will be after December 2020 which makes it very hard to plan ahead.

"Tour operators contract chalets one to two years ahead and many contract chalets on a nine-year lease.

"We are working with our suppliers as best we can and asking for their understanding but it is not easy when no one seems have the answers."


Diane Palumbo, Sales and Marketing Director of Skiworld said any move by the EU to clarify areas of uncertainty has to be welcomed.

"Well-established tour operators have everything to gain by working with local authorities," she told us.

"More of an issue is the effect Brexit has already had on the exchange rate for UK skiers along with concerns about the outbound travel industry's ability to post workers to the EU once Brexit takes place."

Nick Williams, the Managing Director of Mountain Heaven says he has no doubt that we're about to see the biggest shift in the catered holiday for 40 years.

Mountain HeavenMountain Heaven
















"There will now be a fundamental change in how the catered chalet industry works," he said.

"There is some good in that. We know how the rules work. There will now be clarity on what will actually happen.

"The ski industry does need to's a big opportunity to deliver excellent customer service at an appropriate price and professionalise the industry.

"Staff will be paid a good salary, be in a beautiful place and will be able to offer an excellent level of service, albeit different from now."

So, not the often-predicted wholesale death of the chalet model then?

Maybe not, but British operators are adapting their business, but costs will likely go up for the customer.

And already skiing is an elitist and expensive holiday; that is set to develop.

Most major UK operators have cut their capacity for next season, and that's off the back of a fabulous winter for snow that might have been expected to increase demand.

Some are now providing in-chalet dinner on just five nights out of seven instead of six.

A number of reasons are cited for the move but it has the advantage of giving chalet staff more time off.

Chalet diningChalet dining
















And companies that have traditionally given their seasonal staff free lift passes or insurance are also considering whether to remove these benefits in order to fund the necessary increase in pay.

The European Parliament says there were 2.3 million posted workers in the EU in 2016 and posting increased by 69 per cent between 2010 and 2016.

One of the legislators who pushed for the new rules, the Dutch MEP Agnes Jongerius, said Europe had chosen equal pay for equal work at the same place.

"This is an important step towards creating a social Europe that protects workers and stops companies in engaging in a race to the bottom," she said.

"A Europe that does not cut corners and that looks out for ordinary, working people."

The likely impact for the UK operators is that the number of package holidays on offer will be reduced, there will therefore be fewer job opportunitues for seasonaires and the costs will go up for those taking a traditional chalet/tour operator holiday.

Here at PlanetSKI we predict a substantial and sustainable growth in independent travel.

"DIY travel packages booked via the internet with Airbnb and other accomodation platforms will grow," says PlanetSKI editor, James Cove.

"And if someone can develop a truly sophisticated all-inclusive and on-line booking platform that replicates the tour operator model without the costs then the ski world is perhaps their oyster.

"Just saying..."

We've had a lot of reaction to this on our Facebook page.

Here are some of the comments:

Duncan Rory Holburn - There's some good skiing in Iran. Lebanon looks good too and thanks to the EU even the USA and Japan will start to look affordable. Much better snow and food to be had away from Europe so with a bit of luck a few more companies will look to decent places to go and there will be more trips possible to better paces than the EU.

Chris Gawith - No no no. All that happens is it's offset by ridiculous accommodation costs. Chalet companies will just budget all the overtime in advance and the net pay will remain the same. Like most EU rules....totally pointless and not thought through. Jobs for the boys.

Robert Phillips - Marvelous news for the workers Smile

Kev Owen - Nah I agree with Chris all that happens is the hourly rate goes up. But in the contract it will say accommodation is mandatory at several thousand a month to share a room with several people. So they still get paid 100 bucks a week.. #shiteurule

Christa Jackson - On the other hand, that's entirely illegal and the first person to make a formal complaint to the labour inspectors will clean up.

Mark Heeley - Brexit hasn't happened and the EU tightens rules. What a surprise... not. "For the holiday skier the traditional chalet ski holiday will likely be more expensive and services will be reduced." Well done, EU. Nothing like a healthy dose of protectionism to get the economy going... not.

And if you want to add your comments and views then there is a lively debate over on the PlanetSKI Facebook page.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: Number 1 for ski news

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