Wednesday 13 April 2016

European Court of Justice and the Viking and Laval Rulings

Enrico Tortolano says the case for Leave is stronger than it has ever been.

There is also the vital issue of EU case law. It is impossible to ignore this, not least because past ECJ rulings have inevitably become interwoven with British legislation and legal decisions. Britain’s courts have incorporated European Court of Justice (ECJ) decisions into their own jurisprudence and to attempt to unravel this will present a variety of problems. The ECJ Viking and Laval rulings illustrate how employers’ rights trump workers’ rights in the EU.

In December 2007 the ECJ judged in the Viking case that the International Transport Workers’ Federation and the Finnish Seafarers’ Union were in breach of Article 43 of the Treaty that gave businesses the right to freedom of establishment in any country of the EU.

The Laval case followed, it ruled that employers were not required to observe more than minimum terms and conditions in ‘posting’ workers from one member country of the EU to work in another where more beneficial collective agreements had been previously agreed between the trade unions and the employers.

In the Ruffert 2008 judgement, the ECJ ruled that contractors were not obliged to observe collective agreements unless it could be proven that they were ‘universally applicable’. It claimed that under Article 49 of the EU Treaty, higher rates of pay would mean ‘an additional economic burden that may prohibit, impede or render less attractive the provision of their services in the host member state’.

These cases make clear that the rights of workers enshrined in both the Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, are entirely subordinate to the economic freedom and interests of employers and multi-national companies. There is an urgent need to build solidarity amongst the workers of Europe.

The virulent attacks on the workers in Greece and Portugal by an unaccountable Troika of technocrats has shown the EU to be the antithesis of democracy: decision-making is centralised and decisions are in the hands of an unaccountable technocratic elite.

Even the former unelected head of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, outlined in 2007: “… Its (EU) core is undemocratic and distant, a threat to all those living in its shadow”.




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