Wednesday

2nd Dec 2020

EU trade unions condemn court for minimum wage ruling

  • The case puts free movement of services over existing labour regulations, said John Monks (Photo: ETUC)

European trade unions have strongly criticised the latest EU court judgement on the right of member states to set minimum wages for foreign workers saying it is an "invitation to social dumping."

The judgement, delivered on Thursday (3 April) by the bloc's highest court, concerned

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

a Polish subcontractor of German company Objekt und Bauregie which paid employees only 46.5% of the minimum wage prescribed by Lower Saxony for work on a public site.

The court found in favour of the company on grounds of the freedom to provide services, one of the core principles of the EU's internal market.

It argued that Lower Saxony's law on the awarding of public contracts, which states they may only be awarded to companies which promise to pay their employees the minimum wage for the sector concerned and promise to impose that obligation on sub-contractors, breached an EU law on the posting of workers to other member states.

The court concluded that the argument that the Lower Saxony law was aimed at the protection of workers was not justified given that it restricted the freedom to provide services through its collective wage agreement.

The judgement has been roundly condemned by left wing politicians and organisations.

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) said "this is another destructive and damaging judgement."

"[It] underlines the need for urgent action by the European authorities to confirm that the EU is not just an economic project but has as its main objective the improvement of living and working conditions of its populations (…)."

\"Legitimising social dumping\"

Trade unions are still smarting from a recent EU court ruling in a Swedish case with similar implications. Known as the Laval case, the Luxembourg-based court in December found that Swedish unions cannot force a foreign company to observe local pay deals.

"The EU must improve peoples living conditions, not reduce them. Politicians ought to put their feet down and clarify the rules to change the practice of the Court," said Wanja Lundby-Wedin, head of the Swedish Trade Union Confederation.

"We want to see an open Europe, not a Europe that risks creating hostility towards foreigners and demands for closed borders," she continued.

French MEP Francis Wurtz, leader of the left wing GUE/NGL faction in the European Parliament, characterised the decision as "scandalous" and called on the court to stop "legitimising social dumping."

Leaders of the socialists, German MEP Martin Schulz, said that European employment law should be changed.

Affecting the Olympics?

Meanwhile, Britain's largest trade union Unite has said the ruling has implications for the construction of the London Olympics to be held in 2012, meaning the infrastructure may be built using workers who are paid very low wages.

"This decision effectively means that foreign companies working here in the UK, or in any other European country, can flout domestic laws and collective agreements with regard to pay," said Derek Simpson, joint secretary general of Unite.

"This is a recipe for disaster and, if applied here in the UK, will cause massive industrial unrest and threaten the delivery of major infrastructure projects including the Olympics site."

Germany adopts minimum wage

The German parliament has approved the introduction of a minimum wage of €8.50 per hour from 2015 on, a policy shift that could boost growth elsewhere in Europe.

EU pushes back against rising homophobia

The EU Commission plans a proposal to ensure recognition children-parent relations in cross border situations, and legislation to support the mutual recognition of parenthood between member states.

Pandemic exposed gulf in EU digital-schooling

EU states who invested in digital education were better able to protect students from the pandemic, a new report has said. Meanwhile, poor and rural pupils were worse off.

EU Commission unveils 'adequate minimum wage' plan

The European Commission proposed minimum standards to ensure adequate minimum wages all across the EU. But the proposal does not oblige member states to harmonise their systems, nor does it set a common minimum wage level.

Polish court effectively bans legal abortions

The human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe said the ruling marked a "sad day for women's rights", adding that more women will seek abortions underground and abroad.

Pandemic exposed gulf in EU digital-schooling

EU states who invested in digital education were better able to protect students from the pandemic, a new report has said. Meanwhile, poor and rural pupils were worse off.

Coronavirus

EU seeks more health powers after dubious Covid-19 response

After the lack of coordination evidenced during the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic, the European Commission put forward a set of proposals to strengthen the preparedness of members states in cross-border health threats.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  2. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  4. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector

Latest News

  1. EU law needed to protect free press, NGOs say
  2. Socialists demand resignation of EU border-agency chief
  3. Orbán ally admits he was at Brussels lockdown 'sex party'
  4. Legal battle over oil giant Shell's emissions begins
  5. Chance for Christian Democrats to draw line against extremism
  6. Frontex takes transparency activists to EU court
  7. EU's opportunity to curb online politics ads
  8. China and Russia encircling divided Western allies

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us