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Sweden’s Laval Legislation Violates Labour Rights laid down in the European Social Charter
Decision by the European Committee of Social Rights

The two Swedish Trade Union Confederations LO and TCO have filed a complaint against Sweden to the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) with regard to the Swedish legislation following the Laval judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (Complaint 85/2012). On 20 November 2013 the ECSR announced its decision that Sweden in four instances violated the Council of Europe’s Social Charter, which complements the European Convention of Human Rights, and contains inter alia provisions about trade union rights and rights for migrant workers (Decision on Admissibility and the Merits 03/07/2013).

Firstly, the Lex Laval violates Article 6§2 about the right to freely bargain collectively. Secondly, it violates Article 6§4 about the right to collective action, “since it prevents trade unions taking action to improve the conditions of posted workers over and beyond the requirements of the above-mentioned conditions” (minimum conditions). Thirdly, it violates Article 6§4 a, the requirements to secure equal treatment for posted workers, in respect of remuneration and other working conditions, compared to other workers with permanent employment contracts. Finally, it violates Article 6§4 b, the requirement to guarantee that foreign posted workers, lawfully working within the territory of Sweden, are given equal treatment in terms of ability to enjoy the benefits of collective bargaining.

“The decision of the European Committee of Social Rights is welcome and justified,” says Sam Hägglund, General Secretary of the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers, “especially since it indirectly also condemns the Laval judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union from 2007. The Laval judgment turned the Posting of Workers Directive into both a minimum and a maximum directive, restricting trade unions’ and Member States’ rights to demand equal treatment for posted workers, and thereby opening up for wide-scale social dumping in Europe. Sweden changed its legislation as a consequence of the Laval judgment. Now the European Committee of Social Rights has stated that these restrictions violate the European Social Charter of the Council of Europe. We hope this message gets through to the decision-makers in the present debate on the Enforcement Directive, where proposals are on the table to restrict Member States’ and trade unions’ rights to check and control whether posted workers are given the working conditions they are entitled to.”

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