Europe’s unions have called for the EU’s fundamental social rights charter to be fully included in any new treaty for the European Union. This coincides with a ruling in favour of workers’ rights by the bloc’s highest court. In the opinion of a senior law officer at the European Court of Justice, trade unions may take action to fight “social dumping” by forcing foreign companies to pay workers at local rates in the host country.
The context is a Europe-wide battle over cheap labour from new central European EU member states taking jobs in Western Europe. Advocate-General Paolo Mengozzi was reviewing a case of a Latvian construction firm in 2004 prevented from fulfilling a contract in Sweden by local unions because it would not sign a Swedish wage deal.
That happened at the same time opposition was building in several EU countries, notably France, against a proposed directive to open up cross-border competition in services. Union and employers organisations said the final ruling of the court – which follows the opinion of its advocates-general in a majority of cases – was likely to be nuanced.
General Secretary John Monks of the European Trade Union Confederation meeting in Seville, Spain, called the opinions good news for unions and Europe.