Friday, 30 May 2008
A New Future for Collective Bargaining in the EU?
Many of you will be familiar with the worrying trend within the EU reduce the protection for workers arising from situations where they work across European borders but are denied standards terms and conditons within existing collective bargaining agreements in their host country.
The infamous Bolkenstein directive attempted to create a single market for services within the EU to mirror the single market for goods. This would have made uniform a situation where, for example, Slovenian carpenters contracted to work in the UK would have been paid at Slovenian rates.
Although Bolkenstein failed in his movement for the adoption of a directive that would have built this concept a series of cases at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) have effectively stated that the right of employers to bid for work and supply labour within the EU supercedes the rights of workers to protection from exploitation and abuse.
The Laval, Ruffert and Viking cases have all set down judgements that have undermined the right, for example, of trade unions to strike against the undermining of existing terms and conditions through the use of labour employed from outside their country and paid at significantly lower rates.
A summary of each case and the ECJ judgement can be found on the web site of the European Trade Union Confederation: http://www.etuc.org/a/5024
There is some good news however, outlined via the link above, where the European Parliament has just agreed to review the principles of strengthening collective agreements on the basis of minimising attempts to use secondary labour to undermine them.
It is possible however, given the EU's Social Agenda and Lisbon Strategy that we don't get an absolute rejection of Bolkenstein-like labour supply across the EU. The wider agenda of the EU is currently built around concepts like 'flexicurity' and there are many in the movement who feel that you cannot accommodate a position to defend the needs of workers with the EU's significant criteria of enabling the free movement and goods and services.
Please have a look at the ETUC material and post replies.