The Viking case was referred by the Court of Appeal, England and Wales, to the European Court of Justice in November (ECJ) 2005.
The case is of fundamental importance to trade unions and their members across the European Union. In effect, the ECJ was asked to decide the relationship between the rules on free movement, as protected in the European Community Treaty, and the fundamental rights of workers to take collective action, including industrial action and strike action.
All Member States, European Economic Area (EEA) States and the Commission submitted observations to the Court. The Viking case raises similar issues of EC law as the Laval case (Vaxholm).
Circumstances in the case: Viking Line is a Finnish passenger shipping company. It owned and operated a ferry, Rosella, under a Finnish flag and with a predominantly Finnish crew who benefited from a collective agreement negotiated by the Finnish Seamen’s Union. Legal proceedings started when Viking decided that it would be better off if Rosella was registered as an Estonian ship, crewed by Estonian seafarers on lower wages.
Outcome: Following the ECJ ruling on 11 December 2007, the ETUC welcomed the clear recognition of the right to take collective action as guaranteed by international and Community law. However, the judgement may not sufficiently protect the rights of organised labour in a modern transnational and increasingly global economy.
Assessment of the opinions of the Advocates General in Laval and Viking and six alternative solutions