ESF calls for mobilization to strengthen workers' rights

A joint statement issued by the three trade union seminars on the ECJ judgments on Laval, Viking, Rüffert and Luxemburg cases at the ESF meeting in Malmö 21 September 2008, which we publish here for information.

WITH THE judgments in the Laval, Viking, Rüffert and Luxemburg cases the European Court of Justice has struck an unprecedented blow to workers rights in Europe. The message from the judges of the Court is, that rights that have been obtained through long and often costly struggles in the EU member states, should be curtailed to comply with the so called "economic freedoms". This is unacceptable.

Though the judgments deal with circumstances in four particular member states, they represent an attack not only on workers rights in the countries concerned, but on the whole trade union movement in Europe. We therefore urge trade unions and social movements in all of Europe to immediately launch a struggle to annul all effects of the judgments detrimental to trade unions.

Though some steps can be taken nationally and locally to avoid some potential damages from the judgments, a real long term solution can only be achieved at the European level by changing European law, and by securing workers rights from being subordinated to the economic freedoms so central in the EU treaty.

To this end, a decisive and urgent step is to call for specific changes in the Posting of Workers Directive to restore the directive to its status of a minimum harmonization directive allowing for a higher protection of workers, and a directive that in all respects would ensure equal pay for equal work.

In addition to this, we strongly support the proposal from the ETUC for a legally binding "social progress clause" to be added to the EU treaty. A clause which would subordinate the economic freedoms to social rights and workers' rights.

As for these demands, the current crisis of the Lisbon Treaty after the Irish No, represents an opportunity. Since the future fundamental rules guiding the European Union are still to be decided on, trade unions and social movements must put workers rights in the centre of debate. This will only happen if major mobilization takes place. Four proposals stand out at the moment:

We support the Swedish trade unions' demand of a stop of the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in the Swedish parliament until this matter is fully resolved, and we urge them to mobilize for a demonstration before the debate in Parliament. We urge trade unions in other European countries to support such an effort.

We call on trade unions and social movements to join the demonstrations for decent work, organized by the international trade union movement on the 7 October, and to ensure that the judgments of the court and the attack on workers rights they represent, is manifestly present in the demonstrations.

We call on all trade unions affiliated to the ETUC, to urge the ETUC to call for a demonstration in Brussels on the occasion of the meeting of the European Council in December.

We urge the European industrial trade union confederations to take a lead in the co-ordination of this struggle in Europe, including the use of the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty as leverage for a social progressive clause.

Statement agreed by representatives of European, national and local trade unions and social movements.

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2008-12-09 11:03:25.
Connolly Association, c/o RMT, Unity House, 39 Chalton Street, London, NW1 1JD