Irish Times
By JAMIE SMYTH in Brussels

EU group opposes proposals for Irish workers’ rights

THE EUROPEAN Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has strongly criticised the draft guarantees offered to Ireland on workers’ rights because they do not go far enough. ETUC general secretary John Monks said he was “intensely disappointed” at the text after a meeting yesterday with European Commission president José Manuel Barroso.

“The outcome of the negotiations does not adequately address the needs of workers in Europe or in Ireland. There needs to be more balance when it comes to the rules of the single market and the rights of workers,” said Mr Monks,

He met Mr Barroso as EU ambassadors got their first chance to debate the text of the guarantees drawn up by Irish officials with the help of EU legal experts. Diplomats said Britain had requested some drafting changes, but these were relatively minor and unlikely to prevent EU heads of state from being able to sign off on the text of the guarantees.

However, there is still no political agreement on the legal form the guarantees will take with Britain, Poland and the Netherlands anxious not to give any binding commitment to ratify a protocol with the guarantees through its parliaments. These states do not want to reopen a national debate about Lisbon in their home countries by agreeing to ratify a protocol, which would enshrine the guarantees into the text of the EU treaties.

Diplomats said there is also a fear that agreeing to ratify a protocol before the Lisbon Treaty is ratified in the Czech Republic they could hand eurosceptic Czech president Vaclav Klaus another pretext to delay signing the treaty. Mr Klaus says he will wait until the Irish ratify the treaty before he agrees to complete ratification.

NO campaigners are already dismissing the guarantees because they will not take the form of a protocol. Danish politician Jens Peter Bonde, who is a regular visitor to Ireland during EU referendums, said yesterday a “decision” issued by EU leaders could not change anything in the treaties. “It is a creative way of giving people a feeling of legal certainty which does not and cannot exist since only properly ratified EU treaties, with their protocols, can offer binding legal guarantees in EU law.

The Government is still pushing for a commitment from its EU partners to ratify a protocol when Croatia joins the EU in the next few years.

The ETUC is concerned at several recent judgments issued by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) dealing with the rights of workers, which it fears may lead to social dumping. “We’ve had four cases in the ECJ in the last few months […] For example, the Laval case where Swedish unions were unable to protect their collective bargaining agreement,” said Mr Monks.

Full article


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