What Does The European Court Of Justice Think Of Trade Unions & Workers? *

Wise Up Journal
20.03.2008
By Benjamin Smith-Kavanagh

That is a question everyone must ask themselves when they join or are apart of a trade union. Recently the European Court of Justice ruled for the “Vaxholm Case“, were a Swedish Trade Union Byggnads brought legal action against a Latvian company Laval un Partneri for bringing Latvian workers to Sweden and paying them far below the Swedish Industry Standard. The European Court of Justice ruled that Laval un Partneri and any other company in the EU zone had every right to ignore the progress Trade Unions have made for years in getting Industry standards set in their respective countries, to ensure workers can enjoy a productive life.

The European Trade Union Confederation, Swedish Trade Unions and the Swedish Employment Minister were left dumb-founded by this ruling.

The following was collected from ‘The Local’, Sweden’s News In English.

Unions lose landmark EU case, reported by AFP

The European Trade Union Confederation : (ETUC) Was surprised by the ruling and officials said it would have to be carefully analysed before the ramifications were properly understood.

‘Our disappointment is focused on the challenge it poses to the very successful flexible Swedish system of collective bargaining and those of certain other Nordic countries,’ ETUC said in a statement.

It said the decision could have ‘negative implications’ for other nations and impede the ability of trade unions ‘to promote equal treatment and protection of workers regardless of nationality’.

ETUC chief John Monks denied that the Swedish union’s blockade had been a disproportionate use of industrial action.

‘The action was tough and effective,’ he told reporters in Brussels.

Sweden disappointed by EU ruling, reported by AFP

Sweden’s main trade organizations LO & Byggnads : The ruling would mean the Scandinavian country would be forced into ‘a type of apartheid,’ since foreign workers could be pressured to work under far worse conditions than Swedes within the same industry.
Both LO and Byggnads called on the Swedish government to change the country’s laws, which today leave wage negotiations up to industry players, to ensure that foreign workers receive the same salaries as Swedes.
Swedish Employment Minister Sven Otto Littorin : ‘I am disappointed with the EU court’s ruling,’
‘Sweden’s government’s stand on this is that Swedish collective agreements should be the basis
(for wages) in Sweden,’

What Will A Yes Vote On The Lisbon Treaty Mean For Trade Unions & Workers ?

It is of the utmost Importance to understand is that if the Irish vote yes on the Treaty Of Lisbon this “Vaxholm Case“ ruling would be in force in every EU member State and all the local laws would be powerless to stop it. Every EU member Sate has their own National Laws, while if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified, EU law will override the laws of all EU member States, in any matter of conflict between EU law & National law, EU law will 100% prevail. So if a company wants to do the same thing that Laval un Partneri did in bringing over cheaper labour from Latvia. All they have to do is make reference to this ruling, unions would have no legal right to strike against it, and the companies will have a free pass to continue this practice.

By showing how this EU Court case precedent relates to Irish workers and Trade Unions you will begin to understand the true consequences of the European Court of Justice ruling. While Ireland still has a minimum wage of €8.65 per hour that will be the wage floor, unlike other EU states such as Denmark whom don’t have a minimum wage. Irish companies can give out contracts to foreign companies or foreign companies can directly set up here, hire & bring in staff from EU member States such as Latvia, Bulgaria, Poland etc to work here and as long as they pay the minimum wage or follow the collective bargaining agreement of these countries, which are very low compared to the Irish standard. They are able to ignore the industry standards of Ireland which Trade Unions and workers have fought for years to get. The thing you must keep in mind is, if you were an employer and you could hire a foreign national were you don’t have to pay the industry standard, you would be more inclined to hire these workers over Irish workers. This cause - effect situation will ultimately lead to Irish workers being forced to accept a lower Industry Standard wages, for if we don’t it will become near impossible to find work in our chosen sector.

By going back to “The Local” Sweden’s News In English report you’ll see what EU experts had to say on this EU Court case.

‘Free-for-all’ to follow EU ruling, reported by TT / David Landes

The judgment paves the way for more Latvian companies to start working in Sweden. Companies with a valid collective bargaining agreement in Latvia could, according to the ruling, pay wages to Latvian workers assigned to Sweden on par with those paid to workers in Latvia.

“I believe that’s the understanding,” said Ulf Bernitz, professor in European law at Stockholm University. In his opinion, Swedish unions can no longer go on strike against companies from other EU member states who have collective bargaining agreements in their home countries.

An example which can be transferred to any industry sector:

If the Irish standard for a electrician is €30 per hour and in Latvia it is €9 per hour or lower. All an Irish company has to do is give a contract to a Latvian company to find Latvian electricians and they only have to pay them €9 per hour. When you as an employer can chose between one hundred Irish electricians who’s industry standard is €30 per hour and one hundred Latvian electricians who’s industry standard is €9 per hour or lower, who would you be more inclined to hire?

Trade Unions and workers are completely powerless to take any action against this practice under this ruling.

To highlight what this means here is part of “The Constitutional Implications Of The Treaty Of Lisbon” which has been drafted by a working group of experts on European and Irish constitutional law for the information of the public. It is being distributed by the National Platform EU Research and Information Centre.

Click here to view it in its entirety

THE CONSTITUTIONAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE TREATY OF LISBON

9. Lisbon would make National Parliaments subordinate to the new Union: The Treaty underlines the implicitly subordinate role of National Parliaments in the institutional structure of the new Union by stating that “National Parliaments contribute actively to the good functioning of the Union” by various means which are set out in Article12, amended TEU. Under the pretext of enhancing the role of National Parliaments, the Lisbon Treaty actually institutionalises their subservience by defining such a limited role for them in the new Union’s structures. National Parliaments must be informed of and may scrutinise draft EU legislative acts, but while the Commission is required to review the legislation if a third or more of National Parliaments object, the Commission can then decide to continue with the legislation unamended - with its decision confirmed by the normal QMV procedures. Ultimately it is the EU itself, through the Court of Justice, which has the final right to arbitrate on claims of subsidiarity infringement (Protocol on Subsidiarity and Proportionality, Article 7). This provision of the Treaty permitting National Parliaments in effect to complain to the Commission, is small compensation for the loss of democracy involved by the loss of some 68 vetoes by National Parliaments as a result of other changes proposed by the Lisbon Treaty. National Parliaments have in any case already lost most of their law-making powers to the EC/EU. The citizens who elect them have lost their powers to decide these laws also.

Ultimately it is the EU itself, through the Court of Justice, which has the final right to arbitrate. This can be translated to has the ECJ has the final judgement in all matters of grievances, laws and decisions. When you take on board how the EU Court of Justice has ruled on the “Vaxholm Case”, remember that they have ruled against Trade Unions and workers. If the Lisbon Treaty is Ratified you can expect more of the same.

First it will hit the immigrants that have already settled here, whom will automatically be expected to work at their home nation’s Industry Standard. But don’t worry, this discrimination will be short lived as the Irish will also have to lower their wages, if they want to work. If you are from a EU nation where there are good industry wages, a question you should ask yourself is how long can you continue to be paid this rate when you have to compete with other EU nationals who are doing the same job as you for half the pay, how hard will it become for you to find work at your Industry’s Standard rate of pay?

Small or medium seized business might naively be thinking that this ruling is a good thing, you can hire staff for half the price, reduce the cost of business. But when you have a true understanding of how this ruling will work and who will benefit from it, you understand that this ruling is a threat to those businesses. For it must be a company from another EU nation hiring and bringing over workers from their nation to work here for wages based on their nations collective bargaining agreement. So you cannot directly hire these workers but indirectly through these foreign companies. So unless you have extensive networking in place you will not be able to cope with big business who can set up many small sub-contracting companies in the EU nations where all the wage agreements are very low compared to here.

Example : Bank of Ireland, Dunnes Stores, an IT business… sets up a small company or gives a contract to one based in Latvia. What ever the collective bargaining agreement of all industry in Latvia is & as long as they pay them the Irish minimum wage. Companies can indirectly hire staff from cashiers, accountants, designers, managers etc at a wage rate that can dramatically reduce their cost of business, while as a small to medium seized business you would find this almost impossible to compete against.

Anyone who is in an EU nation where there are good Industry Standards of pay take notice! If the Treaty Of Lisbon is ratified, this ruling could bring an end to your standard of living.

End of Nations - EU Takeover and the Lisbon Treaty