A social progress protocol to the EU treaties to guarantee workers' rights

Brussels, 08/10/2008

In a letter addressed to the President-in-Office of the European Union on 19 September 2008, ETUC expressed the European trade union movement's concerns about four recent decisions of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), namely in the Laval, Viking, Rüffert and Luxembourg cases. Indeed, unions from both the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ Member States consider that the ECJ judgments are a threat to workers in terms of unfair competition on pay and working conditions, and unequal treatment between migrant and local workers. Similarly, the ECJ limits the possibilities for certain Member States to safeguard the role of collective bargaining in dealing with the effects of increased cross-border mobility.

To remedy the harmful effects of the ECJ judgments and to restore balance between economic market freedoms and fundamental rights, ETUC proposes to add a social progress protocol to the treaties. Such a protocol must be legally binding to ensure that it influences the decisions of the ECJ. Its objective should be to clarify the relationship between fundamental social rights and economic market freedoms.

According to ETUC General Secretary John Monks: ‘A social protocol confirming that the single market exists to serve social progress, that fundamental social rights have priority, that enterprises cannot circumvent national laws and practices in order to engage in unfair competition on pay and working conditions would be an appropriate response to the growing concerns of European citizens. Taking the social dimension into account is a necessity and would restore confidence.

On the Posting of Workers Directive, ETUC considers that the European Union institutions must take seriously the concerns expressed about the way the Posting Directive is interpreted by the European Court of Justice. A review should be considered to ensure that the directive fulfills its initial objective, which is to promote transnational provision of services in a climate of fair competition and respects for workers’ rights.