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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: June 2012

21 - The futures of European labour law: (2) the European Court's agenda and ordre communautaire social

from Section III - The futures of European labour law


Interventions by the European Court of Justice may have a critical impact on the future of European labour law. Thus, the decisions of the European Court of Justice in Viking and Laval were widely expected to be significant. In the event, they may precipitate a crisis for the European social model and for the EU itself.

The institutional architecture of the European social model looks to the autonomous trade union movement as the backbone of Social Europe. As elaborated in this book, European labour law's fundamental principles and rights at both collective and individual level look to collective bargaining and collective action by trade unions and employers' organisations as the collective framework for individual employment protection.

The European Union, a transnational European economy, like the national economies of the Member States, requires an economic balance of power between employers and workers. In the Member States, this balance is achieved, in part, through the collective action of trade unions and organisations of employers. The social partners at EU level have not achieved this balance of power.

EU law on free movement transforms the balance of economic power in the EU. The freedom of enterprises to move throughout the single European market has shifted the balance of economic power towards employers. This is particularly evident in the overwhelming economic power of multinational enterprises, the magnitude of transnational capital movements, the social dumping effects of global trade, delocalisation, unemployment and deskilling.

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