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How has the Court of Justice changed its management and approach towards the social acquis?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 March 2018


Social Europe – Case law of the Court of Justice – ‘Real’ and ‘apparent’ displacement – Court’s interpretive task more complex and contested – Directives based on ‘flexicurity’ policy – Cases in which workers have competing interests, e.g. age discrimination – Viking and Laval – Re-framing of employers’ interests as fundamental rights under Article 16 EU Charter – Declining relevance of the Court in labour law – Challenges for EU labour lawyers

The Displacement of Social Europe – Special Section
Copyright © The Authors 2018 

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Professor of Law and Public Policy, Faculty of Law, University of Oxford. I am grateful to Claire Kilpatrick, participants in the workshop, and the journal’s anonymous referees for their perceptive comments on an earlier draft of this article.


1 ECJ Case C-438/05, International Transport Workers’ Federation v Viking Line ABP EU:C:2007:772, [2007] ECR I-10779; ECJ Case C-341/05 Laval un Partneri Ltd v Svenska Byggnadsarbetareforbundet EU:C:2007:809, [2007] ECR I-11767.

2 Davies, A.C.L., ‘Identifying “Exploitative Compromises”: The Role of Labour Law in Resolving Disputes between Workers’, 65 Current Legal Problems (2012) p. 269 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

3 Commission, Towards Common Principles of Flexicurity: More and Better Jobs through Flexibility and Security (COM(2007) 359 final).

4 Directive 96/71/EC concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services.

5 Directive 97/81/EC concerning the Framework Agreement on part-time working concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC; Directive 1999/70/EC concerning the framework agreement on fixed-term work concluded by ETUC, UNICE and CEEP; Directive 2008/104/EC on temporary agency work.

6 See Davies, A.C.L., ‘Regulating Atypical Work: Beyond Equality’, in N. Countouris and M. Freedland (eds.), Resocialising Europe in a Time of Crisis (Cambridge University Press 2013)Google Scholar.

7 For a list, see Kilpatrick, C., ‘The European Court of Justice and Labour Law in 2009’, 39 ILJ (2010) p. 287 at p. 292-93CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

8 Directive 1999/70/EC, Framework Agreement, cl. 8(3). For discussion, see Corazza, L., ‘Hard Times for Hard Bans: Fixed-Term Work and So-Called Non-Regression Clauses in the Era of Flexicurity’, 17 ELJ (2011) p. 385 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Kilpatrick, supra n. 7, at p. 292-94.

9 ECJ Case C-378/07, Angelidaki v Organismos Nomarchiakis Autodioikisis Rethymnis, ECLI:EU:C:2009:250, [2009] ECR I-3071.

10 Ibid., para. 120.

11 ECJ Case C-246/09, Bulicke v Deutsche Büro Service, ECLI:EU:C:2010:418, [2010] ECR 7003. Whether this implementation complied with the general requirements of equivalence and effectiveness was left to the national court to determine.

12 Ibid., para. 45.

13 Angelidaki, supra n. 9, para. 126.

14 ECJ Case C-144/04, Mangold v Helm, ECLI:EU:C:2005:709, [2005] ECR I-9981, paras. 51-53.

15 Angelidaki, supra n. 9, paras. 140-142. For critique, see Kilpatrick, supra n. 7, at p. 294.

16 Ibid., paras. 208-12.

17 ECJ Case C-98/09, Sorge v Poste Italiane ECLI:EU:C:2010:369, [2010] ECR 5837, paras. 50-55. For critique, see Corazza, supra n. 8, at p. 401.

18 Corazza, supra n. 8, at p. 401-2.

19 Directive 97/81/EC, Annex (Framework Agreement), cl. 5(1).

20 Directive 2008/104/EC, Art. 4.

21 Ibid., Art. 4(1).

22 ECJ Case C-533/13, AKT v Öljytuote, ECLI:EU:C:2015:173, [2015] 3 CMLR 14, and see Davies, A.C.L., ‘The Legal Nature of the Duty to Review Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Temporary Agency Work’, 53 CML Rev (2016) p. 493 Google Scholar.

23 Ibid., para. 28.

24 Ibid., para. 29.

25 Ibid., para. 30.

26 Ibid., para. 31.

27 ECJ C-55/07, Michaeler v Amt für sozialen Arbeitsschutz and Autonome Provinz Bozen, ECLI:EU:C:2008:248, [2008] ECR I-3135.

28 Ibid., para. 28.

29 Also, Michaeler was a ‘vertical’ case brought by a firm against the national authorities and thus lacked the added ‘horizontal’ complications present in AKT.

30 Supra n. 22, para. 28.

31 Directive 97/81/EC, Annex, cl. 1.

32 Directive 2000/78/EC establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation.

33 Ibid., Art. 6.

34 For a detailed analysis of the jurisprudence, see Dewhurst, E., ‘Proportionality Assessments of Mandatory Retirement Measures: Uncovering Guidance for National Courts in Age Discrimination Cases’, 45 ILJ (2016) p. 60 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

35 ECJ C-250/09, Georgiev v Tehnicheski Universitet Sofia, EU:C:2010:699, [2011] 2 CMLR 7, para. 45.

36 ECJ C-159/10, Fuchs v Land Hessen, EU:C:2011:508, [2011] 3 CMLR 47, paras. 49-50. See also ECJ C-286/12, Commission v Hungary, ECLI:EU:C:2012:687, [2013] 1 CMLR 44.

37 Fuchs, supra n. 36, para. 49.

38 Sargeant, M., ‘Distinguishing between Justifiable Treatment and Prohibited Discrimination in Respect of Age’, 4 Journal of Business Law (2013) p. 398 at p. 409-14Google Scholar.

39 Supra n. 1.

40 ECJ Case C-426/11, Alemo-Herron v Parkwood Leisure Ltd, ECLI:EU:C:2013:521, [2014] 1 CMLR 21, and see Prassl, J., ‘Freedom of Contract as a General Principle of EU Law? Transfers of Undertakings and the Protection of Employer Rights in EU Labour Law’, 42 ILJ (2013) p. 434 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

41 ECJ Case C-201/15, AGET Iraklis v Ergasias, ECLI:EU:C:2016:972, [2017] 2 CMLR 32.

42 For example, see Davies, A.C.L., ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back? The Viking and Laval Cases in the ECJ’, 37 ILJ (2008) p. 126 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Syrpis, P. and Novitz, T., ‘Economic and Social Rights in Conflict: Political and Judicial Approaches to their Reconciliation’, 33 EL Rev (2008) p. 411 .

43 Viking, supra n. 1, para. 68; Laval, supra n. 1, para. 101.

44 Davies, supra n. 42, at p. 143.

45 See, generally, Novitz, T., International and European Protection of the Right to Strike (Oxford University Press 2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar chapter 4.

46 Davies, supra n. 42, at p. 144.

47 ECJ Case C-319/06, Commission v Luxembourg, ECLI:EU:C:2008:350, [2008] ECR I-4323; ECJ Case C-346/06, Rüffert v Land Niedersachsen, ECLI:EU:C:2008:189, [2008] ECR I-1989.

48 ECJ Case C-115/14, RegioPost v Stadt Landau in der Pfalz, ECLI:EU:C:2015:760, [2016] 2 CMLR 20. For discussion, see Sánchez-Graells, A. (ed.), Smart Public Procurement and Labour Standards: Pushing the Discussion after RegioPost (Bloomsbury, 2018)Google Scholar.

49 Directive 2004/18/EC on the coordination of procedures for the award of public works contracts, public supply contracts and public service contracts, and see now Directive 2014/24/EU on public procurement.

50 Supra n. 48, paras. 69-70.

51 ECJ Case C-271/08, Commission v Germany, ECLI:EU:C:2010:426, [2010] ECR I-7091.

52 Barnard, C., ‘A Proportionate Response to Proportionality in the Field of Collective Action’, 37 EL Rev (2012) p. 117 Google Scholar.

53 Supra n. 51, AG’s Opinion, paras. 183-99.

54 Ibid., para. 190.

55 Barnard, supra n. 52, at p. 129.

56 Supra n. 40.

57 Ibid., para. 25. For critique, see Prassl, supra n. 40, at p. 439.

58 Ibid., para. 35.

59 Ibid., para. 36.

60 See ECJ Case C-680/15, Asklepios Kliniken Langen-Seligenstadt GmbH v Felja, ECLI:EU:C:2017:317, [2017] IRLR 653; ECJ Case C-328/13 Osterreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund v Wirtschaftskammer Osterreich, ECLI:EU:C:2014:2197, [2014] ICR 1152.

61 Supra n. 41.

62 Directive 98/59/EC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to collective redundancies.

63 Supra n. 41, paras. 27 and 30.

64 Ibid., para. 35.

65 Ibid., para. 56.

66 Ibid., paras. 61-70.

67 Ibid., paras. 73 and 74.

68 Ibid., para. 90.

69 Ibid., paras. 98-103.

70 Ibid., paras. 105-108.

71 Barnard, C., EU Employment Law, 4th edn (Oxford University Press 2012)Google Scholar chapter 3.

72 See, generally, <>, visited 2 January 2018.

73 See Davies, A.C.L., ‘Job Security and Flexicurity’, in A. Bogg et al., Research Handbook on EU Labour Law (Edward Elgar 2016)Google Scholar.

74 Kilpatrick, C., ‘Are the Bailout Measures Immune to EU Social Challenge because they are not EU Law?’, 10 EuConst (2014) p. 393 Google Scholar.

75 Art. 3 TEU.

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