The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) respects the ECJ's absolute independence, but believes that this ruling may go against European workers' inalienable right to protection of their health and safety at work. “This ruling could be a sign of encouragement from the European court to states who want to cut back European legislation on workers' rights, ” said Walter Cerfeda, ETUC Confederal Secretary, responsible for health and safety at work.
UK employers only have to protect workers' health and safety to the extent that it is “reasonably practicable” to do so. Case law has interpreted this clause in a way that significantly limits both employers' duty to ensure safety and their civil and criminal liability for health risks.
The ETUC is concerned about the possible effects of this judgement. The European trade union movement sets great store by the objectives of the framework directive, and calls on the European institutions, especially the Commission, to respect them in full.
More information can be found in the special report by the European Trade Union Institute's Health and Safety Department (ETUI-REHS) on http://hesa.etui-rehs.org}