A Danish MEP has warned that Irish workers could be forced to take a big cut in wages or see their jobs go to foreign workers following a landmark judgment by the EU’s highest court.
The court decided that under EU law (Directive 96/71) a company based in one EU state can bring migrant workers to another country and pay them no more than the minimum wage.
“The ruling in the Laval case was given by the European Court of Justice on 18th December last,” said Jens-Peter Bonde.
“It outlawed trade union efforts to take action for higher wages against foreign companies paying wages lower than the normal national rates.”
He added that “the European Court of Justice has a long tradition of inventing laws,” and that its latest ruling is likely to be important in the coming Lisbon Treaty referendum.
Trade unionists and politicians across Europe have attacked the landmark ruling, claiming it is a blow to workers’ rights and opens the door to “wage dumping”.
“It strikes at the very heart of employment rights in the EU and could lead to a race to the bottom in terms of wages,” said UK Green MEP Jean Lambert.
Another MEP, Poul Rasmussen of Denmark, believed that the ruling may send out the message “that Europe is more interested in competition between workers than in raising living standards for all families.”
For John Monks who heads the European Trade Union Confederation, “the ruling has imposed restrictions on unions’ ability to protect workers, be they native or foreign.”
The Luxembourg court found against pickets in Sweden who blocked a site in order to halt lower-paid Latvian workers from doing electrical and building work in a school.
The ruling against the Swedish workers was described as “a disappointment” by Sweden’s government but welcomed by Latvia.
Jens-Peter Bonde was speaking at a seminar in Dublin organised by Kathy Sinnott MEP to provide information on the Lisbon Treaty which will be put to Irish voters in the coming months.
Other figures addressing the meeting included Patricia McKenna of the Green Party and Sharon Bonici from Malta.
Ms Bonici pointed out that right across Europe people were being denied any say on the Lisbon Treaty. “Yet,” she said, “the EU’s own statistics show that more than 50% of voters in the bloc are opposed to it.”
Former MEP Patricia McKenna slammed the Irish government for weakening the powers of the Referendum Commission.
In the past this body published the arguments for both sides in a balanced way. But the government has removed that task from the Commission, apparently afraid of a fair, open and honest debate.