Title: EU Law and Workers’ Rights: The Legal Significance of Viking, Laval, Rüffert and Luxembourg (PDF 4.7MB)

Author(s): Gavin Barrett

Paper number and date: Policy Paper 09-01, September 2009

Abstract: The vote of sectors of the population which would describe themselves as working class is tending not to go in favour of European Union Treaties, when these are put directly to the electorate. Whether or not the European Union is actually bad for workers, many now seem to have come to believe that it is, which in itself is obviously a very serious problem for the European Union. Lawyers can shed useful light on whether reality corresponds with this perception. For example, they may address the question of whether the European Union legislature (or any element of it, such as the Commission) is systematically taking the side of employers against workers, for instance in relation to the adoption of legislation, or whether the European Court of Justice is doing so. The conclusion is reached in this article that neither the legislature nor the Court of Justice is systematically singling out workers for poor treatment. There have been some recent controversial cases of the Court of Justice in the employment area, which are examined here - Viking, Laval, Rüffert and Luxembourg. But any such examination is not for the purposes of determining whether the European Court of Justice is anti-worker. This is clearly not the case, and the evidence for that in the case-law of the Court is overwhelming. Nor do these cases have anything at all to do with the Treaty of Lisbon, notwithstanding the constant reference made to them in the course of both Lisbon Treaty ratification debates in Ireland. The examination of these cases in this article is thus of less significance. They are examined for the lesser purpose of seeing if they were good decisions or poor decisions, and if they were poor decisions, what if anything is to be done about them.

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