Ireland: Why the Lisbon treaty is bad for workers’ rights

Irish socialists and workers in struggle explain implications of bosses’ treaty

Today at a press conference in the Davenport Hotel, Dublin, prominent Socialist Party spokespeople, accompanied by strike leaders from Coca Cola and MTL Dockworkers, laid out their opposition to the Lisbon Treaty, and explained how the treaty would undermine workers’ rights.

Councillor Clare Daly pointed out, "If the government was truly concerned with the rights of workers there was nothing stopping them introducing legislation in the Dáil (Irish parliament). Not one specific claim has been made by the government or any of the ‘yes’ side as to how ratifying Lisbon is going to enhance the position of workers.

Socialist Party campaign poster

"The key measure of workers rights is the ability to wage effective industrial action to defend ones pay and conditions. The landmark European Court of Justice (ECJ) judgements, as well as recent local High Court decisions to award injunctions to prevent picketing or occupations by Thomas Cook, MTL Docks, Carrolls Joinery and Coca Cola workers as well as the electricians in recent disputes all clearly demonstrates one thing – that the best way to enhance workers rights is to remove all legal obstacles to the picket. Nothing in the “Charter of fundamental rights” would alter the situation faced by these workers"

Councillor Mick Barry remarked, "A landmark European Court of Justice judgement, the Luxembourg judgment, was delivered just one week after the Irish electorate rejected Lisbon last June. If the judgment had been made one week before the Irish vote rather than one week after I suspect the Treaty would not merely been have been defeated, it would have been hammered. If every worker in the country were to understand the implications of Luxembourg and the other ECJ rulings then the Treaty could very well be defeated again on 2 October.

"The state of Luxembourg had introduced a series of regulations to benefit migrant workers. These included the requirement that they be given a written contract, that the levels of wages should be linked to the cost of living and a requirement that Luxembourg’s collective agreements were complied with. One by one, the European Court of Justice struck these down, ruling that these labour laws protecting foreign workers were an obstacle to the free provision of cross-border services. This case was taken by the European Commission and clearly demonstrates that for both the Commission and the European Court of Justice, contractors’ profits come way before workers’ rights."

It’s in The Treaty – Lisbon Copper-fastens ‘Right’ of Business To Exploit Workers!

Joe Higgins MEP explained, "Ratification of the Lisbon Treaty would give the Charter of Fundamental Rights the same legal standing as the EU Treaties. This is said to be a big step forward which will have a major effect on improving workers’ rights. This is absolutely false.

"We show today that, in fact, to ratify Lisbon would copper-fasten the ‘right’ of business to exploit migrant workers and enforce wages and conditions away inferior to accepted norms in particular Member States of the European Union.

"This happens because the Lisbon Treaty institutionalises the rulings of the European Court of Justice which endorsed the action of foreign contractors in importing workers from one Member State to another and seriously breaching the agreed rates of pay and various protections for such workers either agreed in trade union/employer agreements or imposed by local or national authorities.

"Some of the key cases where these judgements were handed down were: Vaxholm/Laval in Sweden 2004, Ruffert in Germany in 2008, and Luxembourg in 2008.

"Should the abuses involved in these cases, and endorsed by the ECJ, become general it would drive down the wages and conditions of all workers in a disastrous ‘race to the bottom.’

"With the passing of Lisbon it would still be as legal for employers, including highly profitable companies, to sack workers and ‘outsource’ their work in order to avail of much cheaper labour for maximisation of profit. Little wonder that anti trade union employers like Intel and Ryanair have not problem, putting hundreds of thousands of Euro into trying to get The Lisbon Treaty passed.”

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September 2009