EU anti-strike rules sink as parliaments wield Lisbon powers
By Benjamin Fox
Plans to re-write rules to restrict the right to strike were dropped by the European Commission on Tuesday (11 September) in the face of sustained criticism by national parliaments.
Parliaments in 12 member states used the "yellow card" procedure urging the commission to amend or scrap the proposal, commonly referred to as the Monti II regulation, arguing that it breached rules on subsidiarity.
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The procedure would have required the commission to re-draft its proposal to take account of national concerns.
However, employment commissioner Laszlo Andor admitted defeat to MEPs in the European Parliament instead after it became clear the proposal would fail to achieve unanimous support among EU government ministers.
Letters will now be sent to parliament and government ministers to formally withdraw the plans within the next few days.
The Monit II legislation focused on changes to the EU's so-called posted workers' directive from the 1990s.
The posted workers bill gained notoriety in 2008 following a series of judgements by the European Court of Justice which interpreted the EU treaties as giving legal precedence to freedom of capital and labour over the rights to take collective action or negotiate collective pay deals.
Launching the Monti II proposal in March, Andor insisted that the deal would "put practical safeguards in place against social dumping and poor working conditions."
However, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) immediately attacked the text, claiming that it would restrict the right to strike and would still leave judgements on the validity of strike action in the hands of the Luxembourg-based court.
The ETUC, along with the parliament’s centre-left Socialist group, wants EU governments to agree a protocol on workplace and social rights to be annexed to the EU treaties.
Centre-left MEPs welcomed the collapse of the directive, with German Green MEP Elisabeth Schroedter describing the bill as having been "flawed from the outset" and celebrating welcoming the parliaments' "slapdown to the commission."
Schroedter added that the commission text had "reneged on a commitment made by Commission president Barroso at the time of his re-election."
Following a campaign by MEPs in the run-up to the 2009 European elections, Jose Barroso promised to re-write the posted workers directive in his second term as commission President.
Despite this, the EU executive only drafted an enforcement directive aimed at monitoring national compliance with rules on posted workers, rather than re-opening the text.
Meanwhile, French Socialist Pervenche Beres, who chairs the European Parliament's employment committee, called on the commission to re-table laws, expressing her wish to "find a satisfactory solution with full recognition of the fundamental right to strike."
The parliaments of Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom all indicated opposition to the Commission directive.
At least one third of parliaments must use the "yellow card" to force a commission response.