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The Minimum Wage and Workers' Rights

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Women for Europe would like to completely reject Cóir's insinuations that the minimum wage here in Ireland would be somehow affected by the Lisbon Treaty.  This is completely untrue and Cóir is disgraceful in its attempt to spread such malicious lies.

The EU has NO ability to change the minimum wage here in Ireland and this is something the only the Irish Government can alter.  But this is the short explanation.  You might want more detail...

The European Court of Justice ruled on Laval un Paterni Limited v. Svenska Byggnadsarbetareforbundet on 18 December 2007.  This judgment is commonly known as the Laval ruling.

The Court ruled in Laval that the collective agreements between Swedish Unions and Swedish Employers, which were not, by law, declared universally applicable in Sweden, could not be invoked in order to justify industrial action against a Latvian construction company that had won a contract in Sweden to build a school.  The Court, however, stated that the Latvian company could be obliged to respect rules contained in Swedish legislation concerning minimum wages.  Indeed, such minimum conditions concerning wages are expressly permitted under Article 3(1) in the Posting of Workers Directive.

The Court, to sum up, said, "it must be emphasised that Community law certainly does not prohibit Member States from requiring such undertakings to comply with their rules on minimum pay by apporpriate means." paragraph 109 of Laval Judgment.

Therefore, the European Court of Justice did accept the principle that a Member State could adopt a minimum wage, and that this minimum wage would be enforceable on all comers, both companies established in the Member State and companies established in other Member States that posted workers to carry out a contract.

At the relevant time, Sweden, (and also Denmark) did not have legislation regarding minimum wages.  This was their choice.  However, because they had no legislation regarding minimum wages there was no law to impose any such wages on the Latvian company!  If, however, they had chosen to adopt national legislation regarding minimum wages, that legislation would have applied to the Latvian construction workers.

A Laval type scenario can only occur in those Member States that chose not to have a minimum wage enshrined in law (such as was the case in Sweden and Denmark at the time).  It can not occur in Member States that chose to apply minimum wages in law.

Since Ireland has minimum protection rules enshrined in law already, Laval can have no effect here!

What has all of this got to do with Lisbon? The answer is very little.  The Laval ruling concerns the interpretation of existing treaties and existing legislation.  The first line of the ruling reads, "This (case) concerns the interpretation of Articles 12 of the EC Treaty and Article 49 of the EC Treaty and Directive 96/71/EC (Posting of Workers Directive) of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 1996 concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services." As such, Lisbon does not create a Laval type situation.  The principles set out in Laval apply now - even though Lisbon is not in force now!

If anything, Lisbon reinforces workers' collective bargaining rights thoutgh Article 28 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which gives a right to collective bargaining and action.  It states that,

"Workers and employers, or their respective organisations, have, in accordance with Community law and national laws and practices, the right to negotiate and conclude collective agreements at the appropriate levels and, in cases of conflicts of interest, to take collective action to defend their interests including strike action."

The Lisbon Treaty also sets out other workers' right:-

 

  • Article 12 - Freedom of Assembly and Association
  • Article 15 - Freedom to choose an occupation and right to engage in work
  • Article 23 - Equality between men and women
  • Article 27 - Workers' right to be information and consultation with the undertaking
  • Article 29 - Right of access to placement services
  • Article 30 - Protection in the event of unjustified dismissal
  • Article 31 - Fair and just working conditions
  • Article 32 - Prohibition of child labour and protection of young people at work
  • Article 34 - Social security and social assistance
  • Article 36 - Access to services of general economic interest.