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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 October 2017
This chapter considers the legal status of labour rights as human rights within the European Union (EU) and the implications that this may have for free movement provisions under European Community (EC) law. This is not by any means a new subject for analysis and reflection, but has been of particular concern since the fifth enlargement of the EU which commenced in 2004. It is in this context that we have witnessed significant litigation before the European Court of Justice concerning the scope of the right to strike, and widespread protest concerning the adoption of a new Directive on Services in the Internal Market.
1 Prior to 2004, there were 15 EU Member States: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Finland and Sweden. In 2004, membership of the EU was extended to the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. This fifth enlargement was completed by the accession of Romania and Bulgaria on 1 January 2007. See http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/enlargement_process/past_enlargements/index_en.htm.
2 Case C–341/05, Laval un Partneri Ltd v Svenska Byggnadsarbetareförbundet, Avdelning 1 of the Svenska Byggnadsarbetareförbundet, Svenska Elekrikerförbundet, OJ 2005 C 291/10; Case C–438/05, ITF and the Finnish Seamen’s Union v Viking Line ABP and OU Viking Line Eesti, OJ 2006 C 60/16 heard on 10 Jan 2007, judgment not yet delivered. See also ITF Press Release, ‘Comment on Today’s “Viking” Case Hearing at the Euro Court of Justice’, 10 Jan 2007.
3 Directive 2006/123/EC on Services in the Internal Market, OJ 2006 L 376/36 (described hereafter as the ‘Services Directive’).
5 For media coverage of the issue see Asthana, A ‘The Polish Plumber Who Fixed The Vote’, The Observer, 29 May 2005; and Arnold, M ‘Polish Plumber Symbolic of All French Fear about Constitution’, Financial Times, 28 May 2005. For academic comment see Pijpers, R ‘“Help! The Poles are Coming”: Narrating a Contemporary Moral Panic’ (2006) 88B.1 Geografiska Annaler 91, 99-100Google Scholar; and Majone, G ‘Legitimacy and Effectiveness: A Response to Professor Michael Dougan’s Review Article on Dilemmas of European Integration’ (2007) 32 EL Rev 70, 74Google Scholar.
6 The three notable exceptions to the adoption of transitional measures relating to free movement in 2004 being Ireland, Sweden and the United Kingdom (UK). Note that the UK has however decided to apply transitional measures in respect to workers from Bulgaria and Romania. See ‘Free Movement for Workers After Enlargement’ available at http://europa.eu/scadplus/leg/en/cha/c10524.htm and advice available at http://ec.europa.eu/eures/main. jsp?acro=free&lang=en&countryId=UK&accessing=0&content=1&restrictions=1&step=1; and for comment, Carrera, S ‘What Does Free Movement Mean in Theory and Practice in an Enlarged EU?’ (2005) 11 ELJ 699 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
10 Discussed by Donaghey, J and Teague, P, above n 4, 658–9. See also TUC statement of 9 Dec 2005, available at www.tuc.org.uk/international/tuc-11142-f0.cfm; ‘Irish ferries dispute round-up’, 14 Dec 2005, available at http://libcom.org/news/article.php/irish-ferriesaf-resistance-030306; and ‘Landmark Agreement Reached at Irish Ferries’, available at http://eurofound.europa.eu/eiro/2006/04/articles/ie0604059i.html.
11 Case C–341/05, Laval un Partneri Ltd v Svenska Byggnadsarbetareförbundet, Avdelning 1 of the Svenska Byggnadsarbetareförbundet, Svenska Elekrikerförbundet, OJ 2005 C 291/10.
12 Ahlberg, K, Bruun, N and Malmberg, J ‘The Vaxholm case from a Swedish and European Perspective’ (2006) 12(2) Transfer 155 at 159 Google Scholar.
13 Case C–438/05, ITF and the Finnish Seamen’s Union v Viking Line ABP and OU Viking Line Eesti, OJ 2006 C 60/16-18, discussed by Davies, A ‘The Right to Strike versus Freedom of Establishment in EU Law: The Battle commences’ (2006) 35 Industrial Law Journal 76 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Novitz, T ‘The Right to Strike and Re-flagging in the European Union: Free Movement Provisions and Human Rights’  Lloyd’s Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly 242 Google Scholar.
14 Donaghey, J and Teague, P, above n 4, 661.
16 See the 1993 Vienna Declaration on Human Rights, UN Doc. A/CONF.157/24. Another example commonly cited is the Declaration on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers on 10 Dec 1998, para 4: civil, political and socio-economic rights are ‘universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated’.
17 Art 8(3) of the ICESCR states that nothing in those provisions authorises a state to prejudice, by its legislation or applicable law, its obligations under ILO Convention 87. Note also the role of an ILO observer who assists the European Committee on Social Rights under the ESC.
18 See ILO Governing Body Committee on Freedom of Association Digest of Decisions and Principles: Freedom of Association, 5th revised edn (Geneva, ILO, 2006) paras 522–523; see also ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations General Survey (Geneva, ILO, 1994) paras 146–147.
19 These constraints are set out in full in ILO Governing Body Committee on Freedom of Association, above n 18, ch 10. See also Novitz, T International and European Protection of the Right to Strike (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2003) Pt IV CrossRefGoogle Scholar: ‘Jurisprudence Relating to the Scope of the Right to Strike’.
20 Schmidt and Dahlstrom v Sweden (1979) 1 EHRR 632, para 33; see also S v Federal Republic of Germany  DLR 237; NATFHE v UK (1988) 25 EHRR CD 122; UNISON v UK  IRLR 497.
21 Davies, A, above n 13, 81.
22 Gustafson v Sweden (1996) 22 EHRR 409.
23 Davies, A, above n 13, 80, citing  EWHC 1222, para 123.
24 Written Observations of the UK in Case 438/05, above n 2, submitted 24 Apr 2006.
25 Art 137(5) EC.
26 See Kahn-Freund, O ‘On Uses and Misuses of Comparative Law’ (1974) 37 MLR 1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; also reproduced in Kahn-Freund, O Selected Writings (London: Stevens & Sons, 1978)Google Scholar. For a critical view of such analysis see Ryan, B ‘Pay, Trade Union Rights and European Community Law’ (1997) 13 International Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations (IJCLLIR) 305 Google Scholar.
27 Cf Art 5 EC and the discussion in Dashwood, A ‘The Working Time Judgment in a Wider Perspective’ in Centre for European Legal Studies Occasional Paper No 2, The ECJ’s Working Time Judgment: The Social Market Vindicated (Cambidge, Centre for European Legal Studies, 1997) 25-7Google Scholar, cited by Ryan, above n 26, 315.
28 Ryan, above n 26, 314–6.
29 See Ashiagbor, D ‘Economic and Social Rights in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights’ (2004) European Human Rights Law Review 62, 71 Google Scholar, commenting on Art II-52 of the draft Constitution.
30 See Case C–540/03, European Parliament v Council of the European Union, Judgment of 27 June 2006, not yet reported, para 38. CfMorijn, J ‘Balancing Fundamental Rights and Common Market Freedoms in Union Law: Schmidberger and Omega in the Light of the European Constitution’ (2006) 12 ELJ 15, 18–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
31 See, eg, Art 15 of the EUCFR, which sets out the freedom to choose an occupation and the right to engage in work, but provides for no such express limitation under Community law.
32 Case 4/73, Nold KG v Commission  ECR 491, para 13.
34 See Clauwaert, S Fundamental Social Rights in the European Union: Comparative Tables and Documents (Brussels, ETUI, 1998)Google Scholar; and Jacobs, ATJM ‘The Law of Strikes and Lock-Outs’ in Blanpain, R (ed) Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations in Industrialized Market Economies 8th edn (The Hague, Kluwer, 2004) 550 Google Scholar.
36 Case C–113/89, Rush Portuguesa  ECR I–1417, para 18.
37 Case C–67/96, Albany International BV v Stichting Bedrijfsfonds Textielindustrie  ECR I–5751, para 60.
38 Case C–179/90, Merci Convenzionali Porto di Genova SpA v Siderurgica Gabrielli SpA  ECR I–5889.
39  ECR I–5751, Opinion, para 159.
40 Case C–415/93, Union Royale Belge des Sociétés de Football Association and Others v Bosman  ECR I–4921.
41 Cases C–193 and 194/87, Maurissen and European Public Service Union v Court of Auditors  ECR I–95.
42  ECR I–4921, paras 79–81.
43  ECR I–95, para 15.
44 Case 149/77, Defrenne v Sabena (No 3)  ECR 1365, paras 26–27. See also Szyszczak, E ‘Social Rights as General Principles of Community Law’ in Neuwahl, NA. and Rosas, A (eds) The European Union and Human Rights (The Hague, Kluwer/Martinus Nijhoff, 1995) 211 Google Scholar.
45 Lenaerts, K ‘Fundamental Rights to be Included in a Community Catalogue’ (1991) 16 EL Rev 367, 376Google Scholar.
46 See Betten, L ‘The EU Charter on Fundamental Rights: A Trojan Horse or a Mouse?’ (2001) 17 IJCLLIR 151, 157Google Scholar, who observed that, since 1989, the only case in which the ECJ has referred to the 1989 Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers was Case C–84/94, UK v Council  ECR I–5755. Also it was alleged in the Report of the Expert Group on Fundamental Rights Affirming Fundamental Rights in the European Union: Time to Act (Brussels, European Commission DG for Employment and Social Affairs, 1999), 14, that status is given to the ECHR in preference to the ESC and ILO Conventions.
47 Novitz, T ‘Are Social Rights Necessarily Collective Rights? A Critical Analysis of the Collective Complaints Protocol to the European Social Charter’ (2002) 1 European Human Rights Law Review 50 Google Scholar; see also Novitz, above n 19, ch 3.
48 Case 4/73, Nold KG v Commission  ECR 491, para 13. These rights were said to consist of those contained in the ECHR, those set out in other international instruments, and those derived from the constitutional traditions of Member States.
49 Case C–499/04, Werhof v Freeway Traffic Systems GmbH & Co KG  IRLR 400, para 33: ‘[f]reedom of association, which also includes the right not to join an association or union (see, to that effect, Eur. Court of H.R., Sigurjónsson v Iceland, judgment of 30 June 1993, Series A, No 264, § 35, and Gustafsson v Sweden, judgment of 25 April 1996, Reports of Judgments and Decisions, 1996-II, p. 637, § 45) is enshrined in Article 11 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms signed in Rome on 4 November 1950 and is one of the fundamental rights which, in accordance with the Court’s settled case-law, are protected in the Community legal order (Case C-415/93 Bosman  ECR I-4921, paragraph 79), as is restated in Article 6(2) EU (see Case C-274/99 P Connolly v Commission  ECR I-1611).’
50 App Nos 52562/99 and 52620/99 Sørensen v. Denmark, and Rasmussen v Denmark, unreported judgment of the ECtHR, 11 Jan 2006.
51 (1996) 2 EHRR 409, para 53.
52 See the discussion above of Case C–113/89, Rush Portuguesa  ECR I–1417, para 18; and Case C–67/96, Albany International BV v Stichting Bedrijfsfonds Textielindustrie  ECR I–5751, para 60.
53 See Syrpis, P EU Intervention in Domestic Labour Law (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007), 123 CrossRefGoogle Scholar, who argues that the Court not only does, but should, allow the interventions of the EU political institutions ‘to colour its views of the nature of the market-making endeavour’.
54 For further details see Barnard, C EC Employment Law 3rd edn (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2006) 756 and 774Google Scholar.
55 Council Regulation (EC) No 2679/98 of 7 Dec 1998 on the functioning of the internal market in relation to the free movement of goods among the Member States, OJ 1998 L 337/8, Art 2.
56 Directive 96/71/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 Dec 1996 concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services, OJ 1997 L 18/1.
57 Davies, P ‘Posted Workers: Single Market or Protection of National Labour Law Systems?’ (1997) 34 CML Rev 571 Google Scholar.
58 See above nn 36 and 52; and, for comment, Davies, P, above n 57, 589.
59 See Syrpis, P, above n 53, 124.
60 The Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO) Information Note The Directive on the Posting of Workers—The Case of Sweden, 4 Feb 2005 states: ‘Losing this case would mean opening up our country for the import of a variety of collective agreements from different countries. The alternative would be that Sweden is forced to introduce national minimum wages and/or through legislation extend the scope of collective agreements. It is obvious that both alternatives mean a weakened labour movement and the end of the Swedish labour market model.’
61 Directive 2006/123/EC on Services in the Internal Market, OJ 2006 L 376/36.
62 Majone, G, above n 5, 73.
63 See Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on services in the internal market COM(2004)0002, Art 16.
64 Kowalsky, W ‘The Services Directive: The Legislative Process Clears the First Hurdle’ (2006) 12 Transfer 231, 238CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See for useful elaboration on the problems, Cremer, J ‘Free Movement of Services and Equal Treatment of Workers: The Case of Construction’ (2006) 12 Transfer 167, 180CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
65 ETUC comment on ‘Draft Directive on Services in the Internal Market’ available at www.etuc.org/a/499.
67 Majone, G, above n 5, 74.
68 Donaghey, J and Teague, P, above n 4, 661–2.
69 For a useful summary see Kowalsky, W, above n 64, 243.
70 Texts Adopted by Parliament, 16 Feb 2006, Provisional Edn, P6_TA-PROV(2006)0061, available at www.europarl.eu.int, Amendment 9, Recital 6(d) (new).
71 Ibid, Amendments 72, 233/rev, 403, 289, 290, 292, 297 and 298, Art 1(7) and (8).
72 Kowalsky, W, above n 64, 246.
73 See above n 55.
74 Amendment 11 by Francis Wurtz et al., 8 Nov 2006, A6-0375/11.
75 Commissioner Charlie McCreevy’s Statement on the Vote in the European Parliament on the Services Directive, SPEEC/06/687, European Parliament Plenary Session, Strasbourg, 15 Nov 2006.
76 Reported, eg, in Ekman, I and Bilefsky, D ‘EU Service Sector: East–West Rift’, International Herald Tribune, 22 Nov 2005.
77 See also Biondi, A ‘Free Trade, a Mountain Road and the Right to Protest: European Economic Freedoms and Fundamental Individual Rights’  European Human Rights Law Review 51, 53 Google Scholar. This is obviously despite their omission from the EU Charter of Fundamental Right, although, in this respect, it is perhaps interesting that Art 16 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights 2000 does provide for the ‘freedom to conduct a business’. For further debate on this issue see Petersmann, E-U ‘Time for a United Nations “Global Compact” for Integrating Human Rights into the Law of Worldwide Organizations: Lessons from European Integration’ (2002) 13 EJIL 621 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Alston, P ‘Resisting the Merger and Acquisition of Human Rights by Trade Law: A Reply to Petersmann’ (2002) 13 EJIL 815 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Petersmann, E-U ‘Taking Human Dignity, Poverty and Empowerment of Individuals More Seriously: Rejoinder to Alston’ (2002) 13 EJIL 845 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
78 Skouris, V ‘Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: The Challenge of Striking a Delicate Balance’ (2006) 17 EBLR 225, 237Google Scholar: ‘[i]t is no more than the consequence of the fact that the Court has jurisdiction only when fundamental freedoms come into play. In other words, pertinence to fundamental freedoms is a necessary prerequisite for Community law to apply.’
79 Case C–112/00, Eugen Schmidberger, Internationale Transporte und Planzüge v Republic of Austria  ECR I–5659, para 81.
80 Douglas-Scott, S ‘A Tale of Two Courts: Luxembourg, Strasbourg and the Growing European Human Rights Acquis ’ (2006) 43 CML Rev 629, 654-7Google Scholar.
81 Poares Maduro, M ‘Reforming the Market or the State? Article 30 and the European Constitution: Economic Freedom and Political Rights’ (1997) 3 European Law Journal 55, 72CrossRefGoogle Scholar. He also cites in support of his view Hepple, B ‘Social Values and European Law’ (1995) 48 Current Legal Problems 39, 46CrossRefGoogle Scholar: ‘the normative hierarchy of national constitutional rights, international and European conventions on human rights, and the economic freedoms which form the foundation of the Community, has become confused and ambiguous’.
82 Case C–309/99, Wouters v Algemene Raad van de Nederlandse Orde van Advocaten  ECR I–1577.
83 For analysis of such a claim in relation to the Viking litigation see Davies, A, above n 13, 77.
84 Case C–281/98, Angonese v Cassa di Riparmio di Bolanzo  ECR I–4139.
85 Ibid, para 32.
86 Barnard, C The Substantive Law of the EU: The Four Freedoms (Oxford, OUP, 2004) 232 Google Scholar.
87 Davies, A, above n 13, 83.
88 Cases C–193 and 194/87, Maurissen and European Public Service Union v Court of Auditors  ECR I–95.
89 Case C–67/96, Albany International BV v Stichting Bedrijfsfonds Textielindustrie  ECR I–5751.
90 Case 231/83, Cullet v Centre Leclerc Toulouse  ECR 305. Note that in Case 42/82, Commission v France  ECR 1013 involving protests against import of Italian wine, France did not even seek to raise a public order defence. See Barnard, C, above n 86, 67 and 84.
91 See ILO formulation of a right to strike, above n 18.
92 Albany, above n 89, Opinion of AG Jacobs, paras 193–194; cf. Case C–222/98, van der Woude v Stichting Breatrixoord  ECR I–7111, Opinion of AG Fennelly, paras 25, 27 and 30.
93  EWHC 1222, para 44; discussed by Barnard, C, above n 54, 274.
94 Subject, of course, to certain substantive restrictions in the aims of industrial action and procedural restrictions, recognised in the jurisprudence of international supervisory bodies. See above n 19.
95 See, eg, Wilson, National Union of Journalists and others v United Kingdom (2002) 35 EHRR 20, paras 30–37; and, most recently, App No 11002/05 Associated Society if Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) v UK, judgment of 27 Feb 2007, not yet reported, paras 22–24.
96 Case C–112/00, Eugen Schmidberger, Internationale Transporte und Planzüge v Republic of Austria  ECR I–5659.
97  ECR I–5659, para 86.
98 Ibid, para 89.
99 See Snell, J ‘Private Parties and the Free Movement of Goods and Services’ in Andenas, M and Roth, W-H (eds) Services and Free Movement in EU Law (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002) 211, 237Google Scholar.
100 Case C–36/02, Omega Spielhallen und Automatenaufstellungs GmbH v Bundesstadt Bonn  ECR I–9609, paras 35 and 41; discussed in Bulterman, M and Kranenborg, H ‘What if Rules on Free Movement and Human Rights Collide? About Laser Games and Human Dignity: The Omega Case’ (2006) 31 EL Rev 93, 98Google Scholar.
101 Bulterman, M and Kranenborg, H, above n 100, 101.
102 Barnard, C, above n 86, 117; Brown, C ‘Schmidberger’ (2003) 40 CML Rev 1499, 1504 Google Scholar.
103 Under a 1991 amendment to the Swedish Co-determination Act 1976, s 42(3). This provision is known as ‘Lex Britannia’, named after the MS Britannia, which had been a flag of convenience ship with a poorly paid Filipino crew in 1989. See for analysis Woolfson, C and Sommers, J, above n 9, 58–9; and the original judgment of the Labour Court in Stockholm, No 49/05, Case A 268/04, 29 Apr 2005.
104 Woolfson, C and Sommers, J, above n 9, 59. Judgment of the Labour Court in Stockholm, No 49/05, Case A 268/04, 29 Apr 2005, 10.
105 Davies, A, above n 13, 80.
106  EWHC 1222, at para 125.
107 Davies, A, above n 13, 80; see also Jarass, H ‘A Unified Approach to the Fundamental Freedoms’ in Andenas, M and Roth, W-H (eds), above n 99.
108 Davies, A, above n 13, 83, citing Case 279/80, Webb  ECR 3305, para 19.
109 Davies, A, above n 13, 83.
110 See the proposed Trade Union Freedom Bill supported by the UK Trades Union Congress (TUC) aimed at addressing current UK legislative treatment of industrial action, available at Hendy J et al ‘Towards A Trade Union Freedom Bill’ (2006) available at www.ier.org.uk/TUFB%2016.1.6.pdf. For its adoption as TUC policy see www.tuc.org.uk/law/tuc-11539-f0.pdf.
111 See Ewing, KD ‘Laws Against Strikes Revisited’ in Barnard, C, Deakin, S and Morris, G The Future of Labour Law (Oxford, Hart Publishing, 2004)Google Scholar.
112 See  EWHC 1222 (QBD Commercial Court, 16 June 2005).
113 Donaghey, J and Teague, P, above n 4, 663.
114 Davies, A, above n 13, 85.
115 See Heidenreich, M ‘The Decision-making Capacity of the European Union After the Fifth Enlargement’ (2004) BACES Discussion Paper No. 1 available at www.uni-bamberg.de/fileadmin/uni/wissenschaft_einricht/baces/pdf/Discussion_Paper/discussion_paper_1.pdf., 2. See also Blokker, P ‘The Post-enlargement European Order: Europe “United in Diversity”?’, European Diversity and Autonomy Papers EDAP 1/2006.
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