04 February 2009

Wild Cats v Laval (ECJ)

At the moment, in the UK, there are a series of wild cat strikes going on. The BBC has an up to date report of the situation, "Foreign labour row deal rejected , with a map (go to BBC link for key).

The problem has been the general reporting of the dispute.

From the BBC link above, this passage, ...

"The CBI has backed the company at the centre of the dispute, while Business Secretary Lord Mandelson has said the country should focus on the economics of the recession, not on "the politics of xenophobia"."

... is a reflection of the depth of reporting elsewhere.

In other words, nothing has been explained.

If you want to get a greater understanding of what's going on, may I refer you to Mark Mardel's Euroblog - Labour law wrangling.

Mardel makes some good points - "What is interesting to me is not that the compromise plan proposes half the jobs going to British workers, but that the Italian company has accepted that all its workers on this job will get the standard terms and conditions as negotiated in the past by British unions. The company says they were anyway, but few of the protesters believe them."

That is interesting to me, too. There is some cost difference in the labour somewhere; I don't know where but I suspect it has something to do with differences in local labour laws. In the UK people are employed and layed off as and when. In other countries in Europe this isn't the case; it is a lot more difficult to lay off people. Perhaps this cost difference has been reflected in the tendering process.

Mardel then discusses the European case Laval, "[t]he EU rules say that companies must obey the minimum standards of the host country, such as maximum working hours and the minimum wage.

But what happens if, over years and years, the unions have managed to negotiate above minimum wage and above national standards conditions for that particular job?

Also, how does someone apply for these jobs? If the workforce is built up in Italy in order to work anywhere within the EU, how does the local workforce apply for these jobs?

In this situation it becomes obvious that local workers are being discriminated against. Further, this discrimination is enshrined in EU law.

These strikes and the reasons for them; the fact that they have to be wild cat ie illegal (it would be illegal for the unions to be organising them); the fact that they are so poorly reported is both worrying and interesting.

The situation stinks of elitist deals done somewhere to the detriment of the workers of the EU.

See Matt Johnson's Heartland in order to aid contemplation.

  • Unions fear ECJ ruling in Laval case could lead to social dumping for more analysis.
  • Head of Legal: British jobs for British workers excellent, as usual.
  • EDM 677 "Early Day Motion
    EDM 677


    Cruddas, Jon

    That this House notes that global companies based in Europe are free under EU law to tender for British building and service contracts and to hire their own direct labour force; further notes that such posted workers in the UK have to be paid only the statutory minimum wage, which has the effect of undermining union negotiated collective agreements which are not recognised as `universally applicable' in the UK; further notes that since December 2007 numerous European Court judgments, including the Viking, Laval and Ruffert judgments, have all served to weaken employment standards for working people; calls on the Government to support the European TUC proposals for a Social Progress Protocol to be attached to the EU Treaty so that the internal market is not an end in itself, but helps to improve the living and working conditions of workers and citizens; also calls on the Government to initiate effective reform of the EU Posted Workers Directive so that employers posting workers to the UK are required to observe the terms of appropriate collective agreements as well as minimum terms laid down in statute; finally recognises that what motivates members of GMB, UNITE and other trade unions is not protectionism or xenophobia but a desire for fairness; and congratulates their refusal to allow the British National Party to infiltrate into the action.

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