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Unions may take action over cheap labour, EU court says

Europe's highest court has ruled that trade unions have a right to collective action to prevent their employers from hiring cheaper labour from other member states.

But the keenly awaited ruling, delivered Tuesday (11 December), says that the industrial action can only be taken as a measure to protect existing work conditions and not as a tool to prevent a company from moving to another member state, even if that country has weaker labour rights.

The European Court of Justice said such collective action "can be accepted only if it pursues a legitimate aim such as the protection of workers."

But it left it up to the British Court of Appeal to decide whether the action taken by the ITF can be justified as legitimate.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 01:32:14 AM EST
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It's already been spinned in every direction. Can anyone say what it actually means?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 04:11:08 AM EST
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That would require reading the judgement...

What I gather from the media reports is that the ECJ is moving the decision space from rule derivation to a weighing of different factors. Courts love doing that because it gives them room to develop a doctrine on unfamiliar ground (and this is unfamiliar ground).

So unions have the right to take the actions they wanted, but this has to be "proportionate" and cannot compromise the basic right of "freedom of establishment" for businesses.

This is a case that was deferred from London (why the case is in London I don't know) and the London court would have to weigh those factors. I think the union should win it, because there is no real freedom of establishment issue I can see in just giving a ship a different flag and I don't think the union's actions were inproportionate. But then, I'm biased.

There's a related judgement coming up in a week. We should know more when that comes out.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 07:22:42 AM EST
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